Saturday, January 07, 2006

Cavaliers shake the Tigers 64-58

Last year, it took the Virginia Cavaliers until January 22nd to get a win, this time it took only until the 7th but it was the same team, the Clemson Tigers. It was not the prettiest game, or the easiest victory, nevertheless Virginia head coach Dave Leitao is only the 3rd UVA basketball coach to win his home ACC opener. He can thank his stars as yet again co-captains J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary continued to show leadership and determination. Singletary put up 17 points, and Reynolds chimed in an extra 10. That determination was needed too, for every time Virginia looked to be in control, Clemson would battle back. The Tigers took a 53-52 lead with a little over two minutes to go in the game after an 11-0 run. Some big free throws by swingman sophomore Adrian Joseph who ended up with a team high 19 points and junior C Jason Cain (with 12 points) supplemented the two captains efforts beautifully, and led to a 64-58 squeaker.

Clemson was led by guards Cliff Hammonds and Vernon Hamilton. Hamilton, seemingly in his 20th year at Clemson put together 13 points, 4 assists and 4 steals. Hammonds led the team with 14 points. Clemson continued to take three point shots, despite the failure for most to drop. At 6-24, or 25%, the Tigers proved just how true the old saying is "live by the three, die by the three".

Virginia head basketball coach Dave Leitao seemed to understand just how big this win was. Never big on praise, Leitao's opening remarks in the postgame conference were as positive as any the entire year.

"The best way to describe our guys today is resilient." Leitao said. "Today there was an energy level that was sustained. It wasn't here and there. We've had good halves like we did today...the guys did a great job maintaining, not only their poise but their resiliency."

Say what you want about this Virginia ball club but resilient is not a word you would have ever used to describe the teams of the past four seasons. Another positive sign came from the opposition, Clemson coach Oliver Purnell.

"The major reason we struggled all night, from the opening tap, was the backboards." Purnell said.

...What? Virginia outrebounded a team? The same team that gave up 28 offensive rebounds to Hartford? I must have misheard Purnell. Especially when asked about Virginia's front court he responded:

"They're serviceable. They block shots and they're big and they hurt us tonight. Based on tonight's game, which is the only one I can go on, they're pretty solid."

Apparently, the times they are a changin', but one constant problem between the two regimes so far seems to be turnovers. The seventeen turnovers for the Cavaliers cost them opportunities to put away the Tigers and could be deadly against some of the higher echelon teams in the ACC. Nevertheless, with the win the Virginia Cavaliers move to 7-5 (1-1 ACC) and will now focus on the Florida State Seminoles who comes to U-Hall on the 11th. The Seminoles lost to Clemson earlier this week by 5 and Virginia beat them last year at home on a last second shot by F Devin Smith. No one knows if a dramatic finish is in store this time around, but if Virginia were to win, they would be above .500 in the ACC for the first time in a LONG time.


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