Clemson (12-9) at Virginia (15-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 7, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: John Paul Jones Arena (14,593) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Clemson 8-3, Virginia 13-1. Away Record: Clemson 2-5, Virginia 2-4. Neutral Record: Clemson 2-1, Virginia 0-1. Conference Record: Clemson 4-5, Virginia 5-3. Series Record: Virginia leads, 68-52.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Cavaliers set their sights on a John Paul Jones Arena record, as they play host to the Clemson Tigers in Atlantic Coast Conference action on Thursday night.
Tony Bennett's Cavaliers are an impressive 13-1 this season on their home floor and have won 12 straight at John Paul Jones Arena, tying the record at the venue. Behind stellar defensive play, Virginia has run its ledger to 15-6, including a 5-3 mark in the ACC, good for fourth place in the standings. However, Virginia had a four-game win streak halted this past weekend with a 66-60 loss at Georgia Tech.
Brad Brownell's Tigers have had their ups and downs this season and it is reflected in a mediocre 12-9 overall record. Wins have been even harder to come by in ACC play, as Clemson is in the lower half of the conference standings at just 4-5. The Tigers close out a two-game road trip in Charlottesville after dropping a 75-68 decision at Boston College this past Saturday.
Virginia has a 68-52 lead in the all-time series with Clemson and has won three straight at home against the Tigers. However, Clemson has won the last two meetings and is seeking the season sweep after knocking off Virginia, 59-44 at home back on Jan. 12.
Clemson got off to an extremely slow start, shooting just 23.1 percent from the floor in the first half at Boston College, finding itself in a huge hole going into the break, down 30-19. The Tigers found their rhythm in the second half, shooting 55.6 percent from the floor, but BC countered, delivering on 70 percent over the final 20 minutes to earn the win. Devin Booker was strong in defeat, posting a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Milton Jennings finished with 13 points, while Jordan Roper and Adonis Filer chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Clemson is not an offensive juggernaut by any means, averaging a modest 64.4 ppg. However, it has been enough, as the team gives up just 58.0 ppg. Booker has proven to be one of the ACC's top interior players, averaging team-highs of 12.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. K.J. McDaniels (11.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Jennings (10.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg) provide support. Not much scoring comes from the backcourt though, as starting guards Rod Hall and Damarcus Harrison chip in only 6.3 and 5.6 ppg, respectively.
Teams that struggle offensively are at an even bigger disadvantage against Virginia, which is one of the nation's premier defensive squads. The Cavaliers are ranked in the top-10 in the country in several defensive categories, including scoring defense (third at 52.0 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (10th at .373). The Cavs have tightened things up in league play, holding seven of their eight opponents thus far under 60 points. The team is led at the offensive end by the potent inside/out tandem of guard Joe Harris and forward Akil Mitchell. Harris leads the ACC in 3-point accuracy (.458) and leads the Cavaliers in scoring at 15.3 ppg. Mitchell is a perfect complement inside, averaging a near double-double with 12.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
It was once again Harris and Mitchell that provided the bulk of the offense for Virginia, but their combined 31 points weren't enough to lift them past Georgia Tech in Atlanta last weekend. Harris knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, while Mitchell recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. However, the team shot a mere 40 percent from the field overall and blew a nine-point halftime lead in the loss.
The JPJA has been a tough venue to go into and earn a win, as proved by Virginia's big wins over North Carolina, Florida State and NC State thus far. Clemson will struggle as well with Virginia's shut-down defense and give the Cavs their 13th straight home win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 64, Clemson 58
02/07 10:39:58 ET