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Men's basketball trounces Tigers, 65-42

No. 2 Cavaliers shoot 62.5 percent in second half, improve to 16-0

Virginia junior guard Justin Anderson scored nine of his 11 first-half points from long range Tuesday night against Clemson at John Paul Jones Arena. But when junior guard Malcolm Brogdon found him on the baseline with an open lane to the hoop shortly after the break, the ACC’s leading 3-point shooter soared in for a monster two-handed jam.

Anderson’s dunk with 17:56 to play extended Virginia’s once-narrow lead to 11 points at 30-19, and the No. 2 Cavaliers (16-0, 4-0 ACC) kept rolling from there, scoring a 65-42 win with former Virginia great Ralph Sampson in the stands. The Cavaliers led the Tigers (9-7, 1-3 ACC) by six at halftime, but they shot a scalding 62.5 percent from the field thereafter to finish the game with as many makes as misses.

“We got the ball rotated and just got different kinds of looks — shots at the elbows, obviously guys knocked down some shots [and] some defensive plays led to offense,” coach Tony Bennett said. “[It was] a real good, physical second half for us because Clemson makes you play that way.”

Anderson got the scoring started on the game’s first possession when sophomore point guard London Perrantes drove and dished to set him up with a rhythm 3-pointer 17 seconds in. Just more than two minutes later, junior forward Anthony Gill tip-slammed Brogdon’s missed reverse layup with both hands for a 7-4 Virginia lead.

But the Cavaliers struggled to pull away, and Clemson — which led No. 6 Louisville by four points at halftime Jan. 7 — took the lead at 13-12 on leading scorer and sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame’s runner with 11:06 to play in the half.

Virginia responded with a 7-0 run highlighted by Perrantes’ step-back 3-pointer with the shot-clock running down, but the Tigers closed the gap to two when junior center Landry Nnoko got a tip-in to go on a wild bounce 2:48 before the horn.

After halftime, the Cavaliers dominated.

Brogdon resumed the scoring with a face-up 3-pointer from the wing after Blossomgame missed two tries from beyond the arc on the other end, and Clemson did not score until the 15:01 mark, when senior guard Damarcus Harrison ended Virginia’s 12-0 run with a basket inside.

The Cavaliers kept their collective foot on the gas, with the lead ballooning to 26 when freshman forward Isaiah Wilkins hit the first 3-pointer of his collegiate career — on his first long-range attempt.

“When we can make shots [and] we can get stops, there’s not many teams in the country, I think, that can really compete at a high level for a full 40 minutes like we can,” Brogdon said.

Wilkins — whose playing time had fallen off before Saturday’s win at No. 12 Notre Dame — finished with five points, two rebounds and an assist in 11 minutes of play. Bennett said he looked to the Lilburn, Georgia native in Virginia’s last two games because of his quickness at the power forward position.

“He’s such an active player,” Bennett said. “He’s just a relentless worker.”

After Atkins put back his own miss while taking a foul and converted the free throw for an and-one with 4:40 to play, Virginia led by 30. At the 1:10 mark, Bennett subbed in his “green-machine” group: walk-ons senior guards Rob Vozenilek and Maleek Frazier, junior forward Caid Kirven and sophomore forward Jeff Jones.

Brogdon finished with a team-high 16 points on 6-9 shooting while sinking all three of his 3-point attempts. Anderson — the Cavaliers’ leading scorer to date — was right behind him with 15 and three long-range makes of his own. Blossomgame grabbed 10 rebounds for Clemson, but his nine points fell 4.7 short of his season average.

Bennett praised Brodgon’s performance in the second half, when he shot 5-5 and scored 13 points in addition to handing out three assists with no turnovers.

“He really got it going,” Bennett said. “He was running the show and doing a good job.”

With the Cavaliers behind only top-ranked Kentucky in the national rankings, Anderson said it has become increasing difficult to mute the noise surrounding the team. Still, he said Virginia is not extrinsically motivated.

“We’re pillar guys,” Anderson said. “We’re thankful for the situation, but we just want to make sure we stay humble and just keep focused on the prize in front of us. And that’s what’s going to ultimately help us win the championship, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Virginia next plays Boston College Saturday at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.

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