In dominant fashion, the Virginia Cavaliers completely handled the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Tournament with a 76-56 win that sends them to the ACC Championship Game to face the Duke Blue Devils. With the win, we have five takeaways for the Wahoos as they progress through the playoffs.
UVA dominate playing sonic basketball
There has probably not been a fuller 40-minute performance for this team this season than in the win over Clemson. Nine players played eight minutes or more and eight of them scored. Taine Murray scored his first points of 2023 while Francisco Caffaro and Kadin Shedrick played 12 and 17 minutes, respectively, after being out of rotation just weeks ago.
Even beyond that, the ‘Hoos just didn’t make any mistakes and outplayed Clemson in almost every facet of the game. Virginia had just six turnovers on 18 assists on 30 field goals. The Cavaliers dominated low, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds and generating 14 second-chance points while beating Clemson 40-22 in the paint.
The game was not a blowout for much of the first half. But, in the end, the UVA simply wore down the unruly and overly aggressive Tigers. With 4:00 minutes left in the first half, Hunter Tyson hit a three to cut Virginia’s lead to four points at 29-25. Over the next 10:26 of play (extending until 14:09 left in the game), Clemson would score just two points to Virginia’s 21 as the Cavaliers ran away with a physical play in attack and a strong defense against Clemson’s forward field. .
From there, there was seemingly nothing more Brad Brownell’s team could do to get back into the game. It’s a sign of the experience of this team, the quality of their play and the way Tony Bennett is coaching his opponents schematically right now. Frankly, UVA didn’t play phenomenally well on offense. They didn’t turn off the lights. But they were consistently better for 40 minutes, and it showed. If the shots start coming in, this team can beat anyone.
Armaan Franklin and Jayden Gardner are fighters
While three-point shooting remained relatively cold against Clemson, Armaan Franklin and Jayden Gardner had good nights as low hitters. The two former transfers each had field days against Clemson in the paint as Gardner (23 points, 12 rebounds, 10-15 shooting) consistently outsmarted his opponent by exploiting angles and finishing extremely well around the basket and Franklin (16 points, 6-14 from the field, 1-4 from three) didn’t settle for three and instead admitted he was cold and attacked the rim.
While Reece Beekman and Kihei Clark are usually the guys counted on to run the show for UVA on either end of the ball, the way Franklin and Gardner produced tonight was a display of Virginia’s versatility on either side of the ball. . Bennett returning to playing his inside triangle offense for a stretch late in the first half and early in the second allowed Franklin and Gardner to exploit low lags and utilize their incredible basketball IQs to embarrass Clemson.
Their combined eight offensive rebounds (five for Gardner, three for Franklin) was a prime example of their tenacity on offense. At 6’6″ and 6’4″ they are by no means the biggest guys on the court. But they made their presence felt nonetheless and carried the ‘Hoos to one of their best offensive nights in months.
Ryan Dunn-Kadin Shedrick’s defensive dynamics are stellar
Ben Vander Plas’ absence from the playoffs and the circumstances of his injury are absolutely devastating both for him personally and for the impact it has on the team. Not having him available limits what UVA can do on the field, reduces a branch of the team’s signature versatility, and takes a seasoned veteran off the field during the time of year when experience matters most. more.
Still, his injury forced Virginia to give more opportunities to his more defensive and less experienced players. So far it has worked pretty well. That’s not to say that Vander Plas’ injury is in any way a plus for the team or that his absence won’t really hurt at some point. But, the results speak for themselves to some extent. Ryan Dunn and Kadin Shedrick playing more minutes have been a boon for UVA on the defensive end of the ball.
Despite being stuck deep in the niche before the tournament started, Shedrick put together two games in two days that are better than two performances he had in the previous month plus the competition. Although he didn’t match his five-block performance at North Carolina, he scored eight points against Clemson with seven rebounds, one block and one steal. Yes, he committed a foul in the last minutes of the game. But many of those calls were a little soft, and he brought so much valuable energy to the ground for UVA that it’s hard to blame him for picking up a few whistles considering how many times he completely denied Clemson around. of the basket. Having his rim guard as part of the defense is a major addition to a group that has good to great individual defenders on the ball.
Meanwhile, Dunn continued his calm but stellar defensive play against the Tigers. He may not have scored a point, but the 21 minutes he played had a similar impact on Shedrick. The true freshman grabbed five defensive rebounds, blocked two shots and did a fantastic job as a double-dealer when Clemson tossed the ball into PJ Hall in the post. His length, mobility and fantastic hands make life hell for opposing attacks. His offensive production may be limited, but the difference he makes on the other side is enough to earn him some serious minutes.
Francisco Caffaro also absolutely deserves a shout out for the quality minutes he has played recently. He may not have the same defensive ceiling or raw ability as Dunn and Shedrick, but he’s still a perfectly capable and important element in the front court. In 12 minutes against Clemson, he scored four points with a pair of finishes and even added two assists for three,
Adding this item to Tony Bennett’s bag of spinning tricks is a necessary and important development for Virginia. Vander Plas being out has limited what UVA can throw at his opponents compositionally. But the emergence of Shedrick and Dunn has definitely invigorated the Wahoo defense and the options Bennett has at his disposal.
Kihei Clark shakes off the rust
While other players such as Reece Beekman and the aforementioned Gardner, Franklin, Dunn and Shedrick have had very strong rebounding performances in recent games since Virginia’s two-game losing streak in late February, Kihei Clark has been a bit quieter. The fifth-year point guard hasn’t been bad, he’s just been a bit more in the shadows, working to create chances for others as he struggles to shoot a bit on offense.
In the ACC Tournament Semifinals, however, Clark put together a really solid outing to re-establish himself as a true scoring and playing threat for UVA. In 31 minutes, he scored 13 points (4-8 from the field, 3-6 from three, 2-2 from the line) in a thoroughly effective performance as he also had four assists for single digits businessman with three rebounds and one steal. He was also the best +25 on the team, for what it’s worth.
There was never really any doubt that Clark could or would turn things around in tournament play. It’s well documented how good it is when the lights get bright. But it was still a checkbox to ensure UVA played their best ball in the most important moment of the season.
Virginie is in a very good place
It might be a no-brainer, but from various angles, this victory puts the Wahoos in a really solid position. With a chance to win Tony Bennett’s third ACC Tournament Championship against Duke tomorrow night (or tonight, depending on when you read this), UVA has both a great chance to add some soft material to the holster. to trophies while having more concretely solidified their NCAA Tournament standings and simply bounced back with their overall quality of play.
Just 13 days ago, it looked like this team was about to get knocked out. After two straight losses and five straight games where everything went wrong, the Cavaliers came back to life with a roar. Regardless of the outcome against Duke, everyone should feel much better about this team heading into March Madness than they did two weeks ago. It’s a great tribute to the players and the staff. It’s hard to come out of the type of slump they were in after those road losses to Boston College and North Carolina.
And yet, here is Tony Bennett’s team. This game against Duke offers the ‘Hoos a great opportunity to silence the Blue Devils This call from their game in February, cement yourself as the best team in the conference, and truly lock in a top-four seed (or maybe move up to a third?). A loss, though it would sting, wouldn’t hurt them too much other than the lost opportunity. What a beautiful position to be in, and I know I never imagined it 13 days ago.