Virginia stops the bleeding with win over surging, surprising Clemson

As recently as 10 days ago, Tuesday night’s Clemson-Virginia game wasn’t exactly pegged as all that important or must-watch.

But heading into this tilt between the Tigers and Wahoos, Clemson was riding a five-game winning streak and Virginia had dropped three of its past four. UVA was seen as a contender for the top of the ACC at the start of ACC play. Clemson? Many assumed it would be lucky to go .500 in the conference.

A total script-flip over the past two weeks, which included Clemson’s wins against Louisville, Duke and Miami, made this one compelling. And give Clemson credit, because it kept the game close before ultimately falling 69-62. If you’re someone who thinks Clemson has turned the corner, this shouldn’t do too much to dissuade you from that belief. The Tigers got 23 points and six rebounds from their best player, Jaron Blossomgame, and Brad Brownell’s team only had eight turnovers on the road against a ranked opponent.

The loss stinks, but the process and details within it indicate Clemson might indeed be on the track toward an NCAA Tournament bid.

The outcome did more for Virginia, which should be expecting to win at home against Clemson, but still. When you drop three of four, seasons can entirely turn and you’ll take any kind of win in any kind of way in league play. Virginia got a team-best 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from Malcolm Brogdon. The Cavs were saved by 57 percent shooting from 3 and 54 percent shooting overall. Tony Bennett’s team is thriving off offense more than defense this season. In terms of per-possession efficiency, UVA entered the night ranked No. 7 in the former and No. 38 in the latter nationally.

Next up is a home game against Syracuse on Saturday. The Orange just beat Duke on the road Monday night. Bennett’s club will need that victory to get it above .500 in conference play. The ACC is turning into a weird and fun and unpredictable league, which is to say it’s very much like the rest of college hoops this season.

It will take a few more games still for people to buy in on Virginia being a top-10 team. That will not happen the rest of the season if UVA even drops one more game to a supposedly inferior opponent so, for a night, the cynics can be kept at bay.

The Cavaliers probably won’t win the ACC, but they’re still capable of being dangerous. (USATSI)

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