Charlottesville, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - The second-ranked Virginia Cavaliers put their perfect record on the line on Tuesday evening, as they play host to the Clemson Tigers in an ACC matchup at John Paul Jones Arena.
With Duke's loss over the weekend, Virginia moved up one spot in the Top-25 poll and is now one of just two unbeatens left in the country, top-ranked Kentucky being the other. At 15-0, the Cavaliers are off to their best start since the 1980-81 season. Virginia is coming off one of its toughest challenges this season, but was able to upend a tough Notre Dame squad in South Bend this past weekend, 62-56.
Clemson has had its ups and downs this season, but was finally able to earn its first ACC win of the season on Saturday, with a 71-62 road win at Pittsburgh. The win over the Panthers halted a two-game skid and moved the team to 9-6 overall and 1-2 in league play. The victory over the Panthers also earned head coach Brad Brownell his 250th career win.
The Tigers received another strong outing from Jaron Blossomgame, who netted 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second half, propelling his team to victory. Rod Hall added 12 points to the mix, while Clemson's bench came up big with a combined 23 points by the reserves. In all, Clemson shot a solid .471 from the floor and held a huge advantage in rebounding (39-22).
Strong defensive play has been the name of the game for Clemson this season. The Tigers are limiting foes to just 62.3 ppg, holding them under 40 percent shooting from the floor (.392). The 6-foot-7 Blossomgame has taken his game to the next level and has been outstanding this season, leading the Tigers in both scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg). Damarcus Harrison and Donte Grantham round out the team's top scoring threats with 20.7 and 10.0 ppg, respectively. Hall (9.3 ppg) hovers just under the double-digit mark.
While Clemson plays good defense, Virginia excels at it. The Cavaliers have always played stifling defense under Tony Bennett's tutelage and this season is no different. The Cavs are limiting foes to a meager 51.1 ppg and holding them to just .337 shooting. In addition, Virginia ranks among the nation's best in rebounding margin (+11.8). While scoring points in bunches isn't the team's first thought, there is solid scoring depth on the roster. Justin Anderson headlines the group with nearly 15 points per game (14.9). Fellow guard Malcolm Brogdon adds 13.0 ppg, while forward Anthony Gill chips in with 12.0 ppg.
In a tight game coming down the stretch, Virginia scored nine of the last 12 points overall to ease past a tough Notre Dame squad in South Bend. It was once again superb defense that fueled the Virginia win, as the team held one of the nation's most explosive teams to just 56 points on .339 shooting. Forward Darion Atkins had a big game, posting team-highs with 14 points and eight rebounds. Brogdon added 13 points, while Anderson finished with 11.