CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Jayden Gardner had 12 points and nine rebounds, Armaan Franklin and Isaac McKneely each scored 12, and No. 13 Virginia outlasted Clemson 64-57 on Tuesday night to stop a two-game skid.
The Cavaliers (22-6, 14-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) moved into a tie for second place in the league with No. 16 Miami with one game remaining.
After losses at Boston College and North Carolina, Virginia coach Tony Bennett played different combinations in stretches, and the changes paid off. Freshman Ryan Dunn played early, primarily for defense, and gave the Cavaliers an offensive lift, too, scoring eight of his 10 points during Virginia’s early 17-2 run.
“We just decided to go back to some of the things we’ve done mixed in with with the other stuff,” Bennett said. “And I thought that was a good lift. We just saw some good tough movement, hard screens, getting different kinds of looks and (played) … the way I think for this game we needed to play.”
PJ Hall led the Tigers (21-9, 13-6) with 19 points and Hunter Tyson had 17. Clemson got within 59-55 with 33 seconds left, but Virginia made five free throws and had a steal, sending the Tigers to their fifth loss in eight games.
“They’re very good defensively and they’re they’re hard to get a good rhythm against,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought their two freshmen off the bench (Dunn and McKneely) were very big in the game and that was a difference.”
Dunn – who had his highest-scoring ACC game – said Virginia’s veterans have played a big role of late, offering “determination and also encouragement, you know, because now that we’re playing a lot, they always try to keep us 100 percent every time.”
The Cavaliers used a 13-2 run early in the second half to open their biggest lead at 41-27. Clemson chipped away, getting within seven at 57-50 with 3:21 left on a 3-pointer by Tyson.
Dunn hit both ends of a one-and-one for Virginia with 1:56 left, but Tyson followed with two free throws and Chase Hunter’s 3 made it interesting in the final minute.
A steal by Reece Beekman on the Tigers’ next possession and Kihei Clark’s two free throws with 15.5 seconds left sealed it, allowing the Cavaliers to avoid their first three-game skid since late in the 2021 season.
Beekman finished with seven points, eight assists and four steals.
Virginia missed its first eight shots, then hit six of seven in the 17-2 run to lead 17-7. The Tigers pulled within 28-23 at the half.
Virginia and Miami are a half-game behind No. 25 Pittsburgh in the ACC. The Panthers play at Notre Dame on Wednesday night and close the regular season at Miami on Saturday.
Clemson fell into a tie for fourth in the ACC with Duke.
While Virginia has been shaky in the second half of its ACC schedule, it remained undefeated in league play at home. The Cavaliers’ only home loss this season was to then-No. 5 Houston on Dec. 17.
Clemson: The Tigers needed more scoring from players other than Hall and Tyson. Hunter had seven points, including the late 3-pointer, but no one else had more than four.
Virginia: The Cavaliers’ free-throw shooting has been abysmal of late. After converting at a 72% clip in their first 22 games, they have hit only 58.3% (55 of 96) in the last six. Virginia was 15 of 22 (68.2%) from the line on Tuesday.
“We’re saving them,” Bennett said.
Clemson: Finishes at home against Notre Dame on Saturday.
Virginia: Closes at home against Louisville on Saturday.
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