The Clemson Tigers try for a fourth straight victory when they take on the Virginia Cavaliers in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest on Wednesday night. The opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va.
The Tigers (8-4, 0-1 ACC) are coming off a home win over South Carolina on Saturday. Clemson is looking for its first conference win, falling to Miami on Dec. 4 in its ACC opener.
Virginia (7-4, 1-0) has alternated wins and losses over its last five games, including an 82-49 rout of Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday. The Cavaliers are undefeated in ACC play, having topped Pittsburgh at home in their conference opener.
Tigers Coming Together
The early part of the season for some teams is a matter of getting to know each other, with new faces dotting rosters more and more lately. For Clemson, that was the case as well, but the Tigers feel like they’re starting to get some chemistry to become the team they’ll need to be for the conference campaign.
“It takes time,” senior forward Hunter Tyson said of the Tigers’ growth. “We had a lot of new guys. It took some time early in the season. But I think we’re not only closer on the court, playing together better, but I think we’ve gotten closer off the court, as well. I think that’s bleeding into our on-the-court play.”
That growth has resulted in three straight wins, but can they keep it going against a Virginia team that will have one of the tougher defenses in the ACC? Clemson is currently sixth in the conference in scoring at 75.9 points per game.
Forward PJ Hall leads a balanced offensive attack for the Tigers, averaging 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. The 6-foot-10 sophomore is also averaging 1.2 blocks per game on the defensive end.
Clemson is first in the ACC and fifth nationally in three-point shooting at 41.4 percent, with four players connecting on better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. Guards David Collins and Al-Amir Dawes are both averaging 11.7 points and connecting on 47.4 and 43.5% percent, respectively, from beyond the arc. Collins also leads the Tigers with 6.9 rebounds per game.
Cavaliers: Tough Defense
The Cavaliers under Tony Bennett have been known for their defensive prowess, and this season is no exception. Virginia is first in the ACC and fifth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 55.2 points per game.
Part of that can be attributed to the team’s deliberate style of play, as they don’t take too many chances, ranking 16th in the country in turnovers per game with 10.2.
Senior forward Jayden Gardner, a transfer from East Carolina, is making his presence felt early with the Cavaliers, pacing the team with 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Gardner is coming off a season-high 29-point effort in the rout of Fairleigh Dickinson and is shooting 60.7 percent from the floor.
Sophomore forward Kadin Shedrick, an imposing figure in the paint at 6-11, is 25th in the country in blocks per game with 2.64. Shedrick will be a good matchup against Hall on the defensive end.
The Virginia backcourt of Kihei Clark (9.8 points, 4.2 assists) and Reece Beekman (6.1 points, 4.6 assists) works well together and will put the defensive pressure on the Tigers. Clark is deadly from the perimeter, connecting on 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
Cavaliers Win Again
Virginia has won the last 11 meetings between these two teams, and it will likely make it an even dozen on Wednesday night. Clemson is coming together, but taking on the Virginia defense in Charlottesville is a big step up for any team.
When doing your college basketball betting, take Virginia to win and cover at home.