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Fundamentals save the day for Cavaliers

When the final buzzer sounded in double overtime, Virginia point guard Renee Robin

son could barely even lift her head to celebrate. The band seemed to be playing the "Good Ol' Song" a few beats slower. Even the cheerleaders were too tired to do any backflips after this marathon contest.

But when the smoke had cleared, the Cavaliers had done just enough to outlast the equally exhausted Tigers to eke out a 77-74 victory in front of 3,311 fans at University Hall last night.

"I'm exhausted," said Robinson, who turned in a 15-point, five-assist performance. "I think I was going to pass out at the end of the game."

On a night when Virginia did its best to give the game away to well-matched Clemson, the Cavs came through on the little things in the end, allowing them to extend their Conference-best winning streak to 10 games.

A good team plays fundamental ball down the stretch, and that seems to be the only auspicious characteristic that Virginia can take away from this game.

"There was a full moon, I knew we were in trouble," Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said. "Lots of freaky things happened [last night] and we couldn't get anything to run right."

Yet, one key element that did go right for the Cavaliers came from the free throw line. Thanks in part to Lisa Hosac's clutch 10-10 performance from the line, the Cavs hit 30-of-36 freebies (83.3 percent) to squelch nearly every Tiger rally.

"Lisa had an exceptional game," Ryan said of the forward's team-leading 19 points and 13 rebounds. "Her board game was outstanding. She exemplifies everything we want in a student athlete, and [last night] she went above and beyond the call of duty. We were completely out of sync all game but Lisa was the glue that kept us together."

The Cavaliers also played a fierce zone defense throughout that forced Clemson to make an uncharacteristic 23 turnovers. Robinson in particular seemed to be in two places at once all night, smothering the Tiger guards and disrupting Clemson's set plays.

Of course, the fourth year's game-winning shot with 59 seconds left in the second OT is nothing to sneeze at, either. But on a disciplined team, it is the veteran players who make the big-time buckets.

Just ask Clemson coach Jim Davis, whose senior point guard Angie Cossey made a few big shots in the first overtime, but failed to realize the Tigers were down by three instead of two on their final possession. In a game like this, those little differences snowball into a mark in the loss column.

Cossey's "a senior, she's supposed to make big shots," Davis said. "But we took absolutely no care of the basketball all game. We slung it from one end to the other. We looked like the most uncoached basketball team."

With both teams having pulled off big upsets against ranked teams UNC and N.C. State, Davis seemed disappointed his team couldn't take this one away from Charlottesville. But the coach was tired of making excuses.

"If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas," he said.

Instead of ifs and buts, Virginia has a win to show for its exhausting efforts and a day off from practice courtesy of Ryan.

And if this game is any indication, the Cavs should have a very merry winter season.