CHARLOTTESVILLE — Joe Harris couldn't remember too many situations like the one he experienced Thursday night in John Paul Jones Arena. It seemed like every time he took a moment to peek up at the scoreboard, Virginia had pinned another 10 points on its lead against Clemson.
Given how U.Va. completely dominated Clemson in a 78-41 victory, Harris' assessment of U.Va.'s scoring outbursts wasn't far from the truth. Though there was no discussion of getting even against Clemson, it was the perfect way for U.Va. to do it after Clemson's 15-point home win Jan. 12 in which the Tigers shot 77 percent in the second half.
"It doesn't happen too often," said Harris of U.Va.'s ever-growing lead Thursday against Clemson. "It almost seemed like you didn't even realize it."
Harris led U.Va. (16-6 overall, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 21 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the floor. He had 14 points in the first half, as U.Va. built a 38-10 advantage.
The last time U.Va. logged a larger margin of victory against an ACC opponent in the regular season was Feb. 16, 1981, when U.Va. defeated Georgia Tech 83-42. Clemson (12-10, 4-6) entered the evening with the second-best scoring defense in the ACC (58 points per game) behind U.Va. (52 points), but the Tigers had no chance from the start.
Even without 6-foot-11 freshman forward Mike Tobey, who sat out the game and who will be out indefinitely with mononucleosis, and injured forward Darion Atkins, U.Va. controlled the paint. U.Va. forward Akil Mitchell had 16 points, six rebounds and four steals. Freshman Justin Anderson added 14 points, including a flashy reverse dunk in the second half when U.Va. led by as many as 41 points.
"I was concerned because of our lack of size and interior players, and to come out and play that kind of ball on both ends of the floor certainly was good," said U.Va. coach Tony Bennett, whose team won its 13th consecutive game in John Paul Jones Arena. "To get off to that kind of start really helped. The guys, you could see they really fed off each other."
Clemson's 10 points at halftime were the fewest surrendered in a half by U.Va. since Jan. 12, 1981, when Maryland also scored 10 points in the second half against the Cavaliers. The last time U.Va. had a lead of larger than 28 points against an ACC opponent was March 11, 1983, when Duke trailed U.Va. 59-24 in the conference tournament.
As bad as Clemson's effort was in the first half against U.Va., the Tigers had already visited the same putrid offensive territory earlier this season. On Jan. 8, Clemson was down 25-10 at Duke at halftime.
Clemson committed 13 turnovers in the first half, featuring nine U.Va. steals. It tied the most the steals U.Va. had logged in a whole game this season. U.Va. finished the game with 12 steals.
Though U.Va. shot 51.9 percent from the floor on the way to its huge halftime lead, the hot shooting didn't feature a particularly impressive performance from the perimeter, as the Cavaliers missed their first nine shots from 3-point range.
U.Va. finished the game shooting 55.6 percent from the floor for the game, and picked it up in a big way from beyond the 3-point line, making 10 of its last 15 shots from the perimeter.
Considering Clemson shot just 20 percent from the floor in the first half, U.Va. didn't really need much of a 3-point game. Clemson shot 30.8 percent from the floor for the game.
U.Va.'s lead was already up to 14-2 with 11:56 left in the first half. By that time, Clemson had already missed six of its first seven shots and turned the ball over six times. U.Va. led by double digits for the last 37 minutes and 15 seconds.