Huff, puff: Cavs blow away Tigers
Reserve post player helps U.Va. pull away from Clemson to stay unbeaten
CLEMSON, S.C. — All of a sudden, unranked Clemson was in the game with the nation’s No. 4-ranked men’s basketball team … and then it wasn’t.
The Tigers got as close as 2 points in the second half — and had two 3-point attempts to take the lead — before Virginia went on a 9-0 run, sparked by reserve post player Jay Huff.
Huff, a 7-foot-1 redshirt sophomore, had 11 points and seven rebounds in 10 minutes as the Cavaliers polished off Clemson 63-43 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Six points came in a 91-second span and gave the Cavaliers their biggest lead to that point at 41-28.
It was the 13th straight road victory, 12 against ACC opponents, for Virginia (15-0, 3-0 ACC). Clemson dropped to 10-6 and 0-3.
Going into the game, the Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, allowing 51.8 points per game, and were second in field goalpercentage defense (25.1).
Clemson shot 25.9 percent.
Virginia shot 40.4 percent from the field and was better from outside the 3-point arc (10 of 23) than from inside (13 of 34).
Six U.Va. players had at least one 3-pointer, but the difference for the Cavaliers was the emergence of Huff, a 7-foot1, 232-pound redshirt sophomore.
“I’ve been using him in the first half of the past few games,” U.Va. coach Tony Bennett said. “I didn’t today because of matchups.
“We didn’t get off to a great start, Jack [Salt] got in foul trouble and I wanted to give Jay a look. There’s still room for all of us to grow defensively, but he’s moving in the right direction. Offensively, he was very good.”
Huff had not previously played double-figure minutes in an ACC game.
Kyle Guy had 13 points, and De’Andre Hunter scored 12 for the Cavaliers.
Clemson started the day with a national championship football parade and party just a few steps away at Death Valley. The basketball Tigers had hoped to add to the good feelings with their first win over Virginia since 2012.
Instead, the Cavaliers turned up their trademark defense to make it a long afternoon for Clemson and keep their status as the only undefeated team left in the conference this season.
“road ball” to his players throughout the year, knowing how important it is to get your share of wins on the road in a competitive and difficult league like the ACC.
“If you’re sound and your game doesn’t change, regardless of the environment, it can allow you, if you’re home or on the road, to stay true to that,” Bennett said. “This team, they don’t get outside of themselves.”
The Cavaliers are relentless and precise on both sides of the ball. Ty Jerome, a double-digit scorer, had not made a field goal in the opening half, yet hit two key 3-pointers in Virginia’s decisive run in the second half. He finished with 8 points.
The Tigers have lost three straight ACC games, and each time they struggled to score early.
They trailed Duke 40-33 at the break and lost 8768, then were down 40-32 at Syracuse in a 61-53 loss. In this one, Clemson trailed by 12 points in the first half and, despite cutting things to 29-27 early in second, could not stay close.
Clemson’s bad shooting show, the fourth worst shooting performance in team history, means three of the Tigers’ poorest shooting games came against the Cavaliers.
The worst came in 1994 when the Tigers shot 23.8 percent at Virginia, while the second worst came the next season, also at Virginia.
Virginia hosts No. 9 Virginia Tech on Tuesday night.
Virginia’s Kyle Guy shoots a 3-pointer over Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell during the first half of the Cavaliers’ 13th straight road victory. Guy scored 13 points.
The 2018-19 Clemson championship football trophies are displayed during halftime of the Tigers’ basketball loss to visiting Virginia.