(Clemson’s Aamir Simms putting up a shot late in the first half – Photo by Jason Schott)
The Virginia Cavaliers, the number one ranked team in the country and here in Brooklyn at the ACC Tournament, knocked off four-seeded Clemson 64-58 on Friday night in the semifinals.
The Cavaliers move on to the ACC Championship Game Saturday night against the winner of Duke and North Carolina. This is the ninth ACC final appearance for Virginia.
The win also gives Virginia 30 or more wins for the fourth time in their history. They are currently on a seven-game winning streak and are now 27-3 when playing games as the number-one team in the nation.
Virginia was led by Kyle Guy, who had 15 points on 6-12 from the field and 3-7 from behind the arc, with five rebounds and tow assists.
Mamadi Diakite had 10 points off the bench, shooting a superb 5-8 from the field, with four rebounds. Devon Hall also had 10 points on 3-7 from the field, including a three-pointer, with three rebounds and an assist.
Clemson was led by Shelton Mitchell, who had 18 points on 5-11 from the field and 3-6 from three-point range, with two rebounds, two steals, and an assist. Elijah Thomas had 15 points on 5-8 shooting, with seven rebounds.
Clemson came out strong in this one, and they jumped out to a 20-13 edge on a Gabe DeVoe layup with 9:33 left in the first half.
Virginia responded with a 16-0 run capped by a three from Guy at the 1:33 mark.
Clemson was held scoreless for eight minutes and 26 seconds, when Mitchell got to the line and drained three free throws to make it 29-23 Virginia. Kyle responded with a three at the 41-second mark to make it 32-23 Virginia, which was the halftime score.
Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett said of what changed defensively as they held Clemson without a basket the final 9:27 of the first half, “Well, they were aggressive. They’re a good team, and I think Brad (Brownell) has done a terrific job without (Donte) Grantham. And the first time we played them was the very first game they were without Grantham, and I think now they’re comfortable in their roles, and their roles are very aggressive off the dribble. They spread the floor and attacked us. We were on the edge with our transition D and Thomas did a heck of a job on the interior. They were the aggressors. We were kind of a little on our heels, not for a lack of effort, but then I thought the guys really buckled down. I thought Jack gave us some good stops, Ty, and I think our team defense picked up. And they’re not going to make every shot, so we bothered some shots, and then some of our shots started falling.
In the second half, Virginia kept it going, as back-to-back steals by Ty Jerome and Devon Hall led to a Guy layups, the second one giving them a 44-30 edge at the 13:06 mark.
Clemson got back into it, as a Marquise Reed layup pulled them within five, at 48-43, with 7:23 left.
Virginia went back up nine after another Hall steal turned into a short jumper from Jack Salt that made it 54-45 with 5:01 left, and they maintained at least a six-point edge until the final seconds, when Clemson made it four at one point.