Kihei Clark, Virginia Cavaliers, college basketball

Virginia basketball walloped Clemson on the road, beating the twelfth ranked Tigers 85-50.

The Cavaliers looked their sharpest on both sides of the ball all season tonight, shooting 60.7% from the field and over 50% from beyond the arc, while holding Clemson to just 40% from the field along with 21.7% from range.

Virginia basketball had five players in double figures, with Sam Hauser and Tomas Woldetensae leading the way with 14 each. Hauser, Woldetensae, and Trey Murphy III combined for 11 of Virginia’s 15 threes in the contest.

1. Clemson’s layoff showed

The Tigers hosted their first top 25 matchup of the year after an 11 day layoff due to COVID-19 protocols. It showed, as Clemson’s elite defense struggled mightily, allowing a slow paced Virginia squad to score 85 points, 15 more than the Tigers had let up all season. Virginia shot at a high clip, but Clemson’s rotations and awareness were below par to what it had been all season, allowing open looks to a good offensive team. In addition the offense had issues as well. The Tigers turned the ball over nine times and were outrebounded by the Wahoos 33-21.

This leads to the question: Will the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee consider a layoff when judging bad losses? This is not the first occurrence of a team being blown out after a long break. In fact, Virginia lost badly to Gonzaga after a 12 day break. Will the committee look at losses and take into consideration the lack of preparation before the game due to protocol?

2. Virginia is an offense-first team

Most college hoops fans are used to seeing Tony Bennett lead his teams to scrappy 60-45 wins. Not this year. The 11th ranked KenPom offensive juggernaut in Charlottesville showed itself yet again tonight in its best effort all season. Jay Huff and Hauser have been tremendous in the frontcourt all year, and it seems as though Kihei Clark is playing more efficiently in his smaller role this season. Murphy and Woldetensae are tremendous shooters who can also attack the paint.

The X-Factor for Virginia basketball, though, is how consistent Casey Morsell and Reece Beekman can be. If those two are shooting with confidence and adding another element to the offense, Virginia could lead on an unfamiliar side of the ball to bring them back to the promise land in March.

Kihei Clark: ACC Point Guard

Sorry to all the doubters, but it is very safe to say that Kihei Clark has not only cemented himself as an ACC caliber point guard, but he has risen to one of the elite in the league. Virginia’s floor general is averaging 10.8 points per game, the same he averaged last year but in four fewer minutes. He also averages 1.5 less turnovers per game this season.

Clark has been excellent at picking his spots and not forcing bad takes, but rather letting the ball come to him and creating for others on the offensive end. He is no longer tasked with running the floor, creating and taking a shot. Now, he has more weapons and is only taking shots when he has to. The junior point guard shot 37% from the field last year. This season, he is at 51.3%.

Virginia hosts NC State on Wednesday, part of a three-game home stretch before traveling to Blacksburg for a rivalry game with Virginia Tech to end the month.

Clemson leaves home for a two-game road trip, first at Georgia Tech on Wednesday and then at Florida State on Saturday.

By Samuel Bass

Writing sports, college basketball, ACC hoops