It was senior night at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, and a chance to recognize the four years of service for Seniors Jordan Roper, Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith. At the same time, the Tigers were looking to set a school record by picking up their 8th home conference victory on the season and knock off their 5th top 25 team.
Whether you consider an extended break beneficial or hurtful for a basketball team, the Tigers had not stepped on the court since the 23rd of February, and a heartbreaking loss to Georgia Tech. Clemson appeared to show its rust early on beginning the contest 0-of-10 from the floor and allowing the 4th ranked Virginia Cavaliers to jump out to a commanding 12-0 lead heading into the first television timeout.
Head Coach Brad Brownell took the media timeout to wake his team up and verbally shake the rust off as a Jordan Roper jumper would put Clemson on the scoreboard more than 5 minutes into the contest. After the 0-for-10 start, Clemson would get hot, and go 5-for its next-5 using an 11-3 counter run to cut into the Cavalier lead.
Avry Holmes has been able to perform spectacularly on the defensive end of the floor this season shutting down many teams top scorers, but tonight he was up against ACC Player of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon, and Brodgon did not disappoint. Brogdon scored 14 points in the first 10 minutes of the game and had Virginia clicking on all cylinders. Brogdon and the Cavaliers offense would stall in the final portions of the 2nd half, but Clemson could not take advantage, turning the ball over in possessions where they had the opportunity to cut the Virginia lead down from 4.
Jaron Blossomgame would nail a 3-pointer with 3:52 remaining which would bring Clemson to its smallest deficit since the opening tip. Blossomgame would drop 14-points to match Brogdon for points in the first half. Anthony Gill would throw in a 2 hand slam around a leaping Nnoko and the Cavaliers would take a 33-27 lead into the half.
The start of the 2nd half belonged to #5 in white. Jaron Blossomgame would open the 2nd half with a monstrous reverse dunk that brought the crowd of the Bon Secours Wellness Arena to its feet. He would follow that up with a 3-pointer from the edge to cut the lead to 2. Clemson has been guilty of not feeding the hot hand and this proved to be true as Avery Holmes was the one to take the shot on the teams next 3 possessions before Blossomgame took the reigns back and hit another edge 3-pointer to give Clemson its first lead of the ballgame 35-34 forcing Virginia to take its first timeout.
The Tigers and Cavaliers would both go cold as Clemson would miss 6 consecutive shots, while Virginia would respond with a 1-for-5 effort themselves. The game would turn into a game of 1-against-1 as Brogdon and Blossomgame would throw their best punches at each other, answering each others baskets on back to back possessions. Donte Grantham would score the Tigers first 2nd half points not scored by #5, hitting a corner 3 off the inbound play to give the lead back to Clemson, 42-41 with a little over 10 minutes remaining.
In a game where the next run would more than likely decide the game, Virginia would take control with a 7-0 run capped by a strong finish at the basket from Marial Shayok extended the lead to 53-47, prompting a timeout from Brad Brownell. Clemson would respond with, who else? A Jaron Blossomgame 3, which would cut the lead back to 53-52 with 3 minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, Clemson would fail itself in the final moments. Jordan Roper (a 78% free throw shooter) would miss two free throws and Jaron Blossomgame would fall to the floor on a defensive rebound and correctly be called for the travel. Virginia would convert on their end of the floor, and their free throws to put the game away, and claim a 64-57 victory.
Jaron Blossomgame was the only Tiger in double figures with 31 hard fought points on 10-of-16 shooting including 4 three pointers on 6 attempts. Blossomgame grabbed 5 rebounds, and scored the teams first 12 points in the second half. The Tigers were outrebounded 34-27 and turned the ball over 12 times, many in key situations to cut down the Cavalier lead.
Malcom Brogdon led the way for the Cavaliers scoring 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting, but was mostly quiet with only 4 points in the 2nd half. Anthony Gill finished with a double-double scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. London Perrantes would round out the double figure scorers for Virginia scoring 13 points while making 3 of his 8 three point attempts. Virginia shot 47.4% from beyond the arc in the contest.
The Tigers will round out the ACC regular season in a dangerous contest against a Boston College team that is winless in the ACC. The Tigers have struggled on the road, and will travel to Chestnut Hill for a noon contest this Saturday. Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for more Clemson Basketball coverage.