Cavaliers hang on to win 66-65 at Clemson for sixth-straight victory

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia extended its overall win streak to six games Saturday, hanging on in the waning seconds for an important 66-65 win over Clemson, marking UVA’s seventh-straight win at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Cavaliers (17-5, 8-3 ACC) grabbed a comfortable lead in the first half and held it throughout the majority of the second, but the Tigers clawed back and went ahead by a point with just over five minutes to play, setting up an exciting finish.

With UVA in front by one, 60-59, with 2:11 to go, Isaac McKneely, who hadn’t made a 3-ball all day, picked the perfect moment to put his stamp on the contest, connecting on a four-point play to push the lead to five.

“His four-point play was huge,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett afterwards.

Clemson (14-7, 4-6) chipped away from the free-throw line to get back within two points as the clock went under the one-minute mark, when another Cavalier second-year star — forward Ryan Dunn — made another huge contribution.

As Jordan Minor caught an entry pass in the lane and released his shot attempt that barely missed at the rim, Dunn was in the right place at the right time for the stickback tip-in with 39.7 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession affair, 66-62.

On the all-important ensuing trip down, the Tigers went straight to their go-to guy, senior big man P.J. Hall, who couldn’t get his shot to drop from in close, and the Wahoos secured the defense rebound and forced the home team to foul.

For all of the clutch contributions Jake Groves — who put together another standout scoring performance with a team-high 17 points (7 of 9; 3 for 4 from long range) — had provided on the afternoon, he came up short on the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 19 ticks left that could have all but sealed the deal, and Clemson still had life.

Brad Brownell called a timeout to set up a play, and Minor caught the wrist of Hall on a 3-point try, sending the 82-percent free-throw shooter to the stripe with 7.5 seconds on the clock.

Hall swished all three to cut it back to one before Dante Harris was quickly fouled and sent to the foul line, and he couldn’t get his one-and-one attempt to drop, leaving the door wide open for the Tigers.

Brownell had one timeout in his pocket but chose not to use it, and might be rethinking his decision in hindsight, as senior reserve Jack Clark misfired on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Hoos escaped with a crucial Quad 1 victory.

Groves, who had a season-best 18 points in Wednesday’s win over Notre Dame, poured in 13 in the first half Saturday, as Virginia went into the break with a 34-26 edge, with the Oklahoma grad-transfer sinking a headfake triple off a screen to beat the halftime horn.

In the second half after Clemson’s 7-0 spurt made it a two-point contest, UVA senior floor general Reece Beekman became the 51st player in Cavalier history to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau for his career on a pair of free throws with 12:49 to play, making it a 46-40 ballgame.

Moments later, Beekman buried a jumper to push the lead to 54-47 before Syracuse transfer Joe Girard III capped another 7-0 Clemson scoring run to knot the score with 6:48 to go. From there, the lead seesawed back and forth until the Hoos found a way to prevail for a third-consecutive weekend on the ACC road.

UVA shot 44 percent on the afternoon (26 of 59) and 33 percent from downtown (5 for 15), connecting on 9 of 13 from the free-throw line (69 percent).

In addition to Groves, Beekman and McKneely each finished with 14 points, while Minor contributed 9 points — all after halftime — and 9 boards. Beekman added 4 assists (no turnovers) and 3 steals, putting him at 215 for his Wahoo career, now just seven shy of matching Othell Wilson’s school-record 222.

Dunn had a quiet day offensively (5 points on 2-for-5 shooting), but hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds, marking the fourth time in his last five games when he has hit double digits on the glass. He also made a diving save on the sideline to keep a possession alive earlier in the game, which eventually led to two points.

“Those are the winning plays…,” Bennett said of Dunn’s high motor, pointing to his chest to further describe how important he was to the win. “That play he made to keep it in and to save it and go flying into the bench, and then that tip-in, those are — I’ll remember those for a long time, because that’s the stuff that’s got to be in here to do that, and then the anticipation.

“So he used his grit, his athleticism, and those plays won us the game as much as the four-point play and some of those other things.”

The Cavaliers had a 38-33 advantage in the rebounding department and scored 9 points off of 6 Clemson turnovers, while only giving the ball away four times.

The Virginia bench outscored the Tigers’ by a 21-5 margin, while the Hoos also did more damage in the paint (30-22). Meanwhile, Clemson struggled to put the ball in the bucket from close range, misfiring on 16 of 25 such shots.

Hall, who entered the game averaging a team-high 19.9 points per game, made just 4 of 16 from the field and 1 for 6 from 3-point land, but sank 10 of 12 from the line to finish with a game-high 19 points to go with 6 rebounds.

“We did the job [on Hall] in the first half, and then he started with his physicality and his experience, sort of took over in some ways,” Bennett said of defending the talented big man, who was limited to 2 points on 1-of-6 shooting across the opening 20 minutes.

Girard (4 for 6 from long distance) added 14 points, while Ian Schieffelin had 13 points and a team-high 9 boards, and Chase Hunter had 12 in the losing effort.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA (17-5, 8-3 ACC) has a six-game win streak
  • UVA has a three-game road win streak and is 5-5 away from John Paul Jones Arena
  • Ryan Dunn’s tip-in gave UVA a 66-62 lead with 36.3 seconds remaining
  • Isaac McKneely’s four-point play gave UVA a 64-59 lead
  • PJ Hall’s 3-pointer gave Clemson a 57-56 advantage
  • Clemson’s 7-0 run tied the score at 54-54
  • UVA closed the first half on a 7-2 run to take a 34-26 lead, improving to 16-0 when leading at the half
  • Clemson answered with an 8-0 run to make it 27-24
  • UVA went on a 9-0 run to take a 27-16 lead
  • UVA out-rebounded Clemson 38-33

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 83-53 all-time vs. Clemson, including a 28-35 road record, in a series that dates to 1935-36
  • UVA has a four-game win streak vs. Clemson
  • UVA has a seven-game road win streak vs. the Tigers
  • UVA has won 15 of the last 16 meetings in the series
  • UVA is 17-3 in its last 20 meetings against the Tigers
  • Head coach Tony Bennett is 20-4 all-time vs. Clemson

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Jake Groves (17), Reece Beekman (14), Isaac McKneely (14)
  • Beekman (1,002 points) became the 51st Cavalier to reach 1,000 career points
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 48th time
  • Beekman had a game-high three steals
  • Jordan Minor (9 points) had a season-high two blocked shots and tied a season high with nine rebounds
  • Groves reached double figures for the 33rd time (7th at UVA)
  • Groves (3 of 4 3-pointers) is 12 of 18 from 3-point range over the past three games, sinking 3+ in each of the three contests
  • McKneely reached double figures for the 18th time
  • Ryan Dunn (10 rebounds) had his eighth game with 10 or more rebounds


Virginia looks to keep it rolling with another big game on tap and a short turnaround, as Miami visits John Paul Jones Arena on Monday night (7 p.m., ESPN).