Feb 10, 2002
By MATTHEW BARAKATAssociated Press Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – After four consecutive losses, Virginia coach Pete Gillen decided to shake up the starting lineup.
With two freshmen moving into the starting five, the 10th-ranked Cavaliers got 61 points from the other three Sunday and ended their losing streak with an 85-71 victory over Clemson.
“It wasn’t that those guys were the problem, it was the group,” Gillen said of freshman point guard Keith Jenifer and forward J.C. Mathis, who gave up their starting spots to Jermaine Harper and Jason Clark. “We lost four in a row. We had to get a change.”
Roger Mason Jr. scored 23 points and sparked a 15-0 second-half run for the Cavaliers, who took control only after Clemson tied the game with 15:10 left.
Travis Watson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Virginia, while Chris Williams had 18 points, 15 in the second half.
“Their three go-to guys really made the difference in the game,” Clemson coach Larry Shyatt said.
Virginia (15-6, 5-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) led almost throughout until Jamar McKnight’s 3-pointer with 15:10 left tied it at 50. The Tigers (11-13, 2-9) then fell victim to the Cavaliers’ full-court pressure and lost their eighth in a row.
After converting two free throws, Mason stole the ball in the backcourt and hit a quick layup to make it 56-50. Then, with the score 58-50, Watson stole the ball and Edward Scott was called for an intentional foul as he pulled on Watson’s shorts to keep him from the basket. Watson hit both foul shots to give Virginia a 10-point lead.
“I thought our pressure really got us going, gave us a little energy,” Gillen said.
“We just wanted to keep going at them,” Mason said. “Our guys got hyped, they turned the ball over and we got some buckets.”
Both coaches agreed that a key to Virginia’s run was its ability to get the ball away from Scott, who had done an excellent job handling the Cavaliers’ pressure in the first half.
“We felt that he was the straw that stirs their drink,” Gillen said. “We wanted to keep it out of his hands.”
Scott had eight assists, but only one in the second half.
McKnight had 18 points for the Tigers, whose losing streak started right after it stunned Virginia on Jan. 8.
Clemson managed just four shots during the Cavaliers’ run, which lasted four minutes and put an end to a winning drought for Virginia that included losses to No. 1 Duke, No. 3 Maryland, No. 22 Missouri and North Carolina State.
“This was a badly needed victory. It would have been a really big hurdle to overcome” if we had lost, Gillen said. “They were reeling. We were reeling.”
Clemson’s inside game suffered after 6-foot-10 forward Tomas Nagys, who had scored six points, rolled his ankle on a shot midway through the first half. He did not return.
Williams, who has been chided by Gillen for playing tentatively, responded in the second half, going 4-of-6 from the field.
“He had a great second half. He was more aggressive and we need him to be more aggressive,” Gillen said.
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