In the middle of the second half of the Virginia Tech game at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night, young Cavaliers Kihei Clark fired a shot that caused Coach Tony Bennett to react, especially considering the point that the guard also missed his four first-team goal attempts.
He told Clark to continue firing.
Clark is gone, scoring all 14 of his points in the second half to spark a 57-49 victory at the McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.
The No 9 Cavaliers (14-3, 10-1) won their third game in a row and the tenth in 11 games to strengthen their hold on first place in the ACC. They also swept the regular season series against Georgia Tech (9-7, 5-5) and beat the Yellow Jackets for the eighth time in a row.
“When we got in during the break, everyone was talking, and I talked to Kihei and told him, ‘Look, if they’re going to guard you like that, shoot the ball,” said Cavaliers guard Trey Murphy III Georgia Tech goes under screens to protect Clark. “I trusted Kihei, and we had to make sure he knew that.”
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Virginia snatched an 11-game Jackets winning streak from home conference games from last season in part by reducing the No. 3 ACC team to 23 points in the second half. Georgia Tech went just 4 points out of 21 pointers (19 percent) and shot 36 percent overall.
The Cavaliers made the highest profit of 17 seasons but shot 64 percent in the second half, including 5 out of 10 with three points.
Murphy scored 18 points and Sam Hauser added eight points, 10 rebounds and five assists to Virginia, using a 12-1 aggression in the second half to find a split on the way to winning 18th in 19 ACC games.
Point defender Joseph Alvarado scored 18 points for Georgia Tech, who had not missed a conference in Atlanta since the Cavaliers won 63-58 on January 18, 2020.
The second half consisted of two high-ranking ACC security guards who took turns making impossible shots. First, Alvarado hit a point-point-pointer looking back in front of the yellow Jackets bench with a shooting clock that dropped to a 42-38 lead at 9:28 a.m. to play.
Clark had the ball in his hands shortly afterwards and realized that the shooting clock was about to end. He introduced a three-pointer from the top right of the arc that accelerated when a sound was heard.
“It’s nice to see the ball go over the edge,” said Clark, who went 4 to 6 from behind the arc in the second half. His teammates “sat in my corner throughout the game, just telling me to keep driving with confidence, so [hit], and it sounds good to get that out.”
Alvarado responded with a short jumper, but Virginia came back in the middle of 44-43 as Hauser circled the screen near the free throw line, collected a pass from hospital keeper Thomas Woldentensae made a jumper catch and fired six minutes before.
Clark followed with a lead jump and made his fourth pointer to extend the line 48-44 with 4:37 remaining.
The Cavaliers continued to put pressure on both sides of the court. Growing up with their lead to 55-47 in 2:31 to play behind the center Jay Huff controlled the loose ball in the middle of the commotion and pulled with emphasis with one hand.
“I loved the momentum,” Murphy said of playing in front of 1,200 fans, one of the few times Virginia played in front of a crowd this season. “I think street games are the best because you’ve got people coming to you, and you’ve got a lot harder. There was a great atmosphere there, and I really appreciated it. ”
Since the start of the ACC competition, Georgia Tech has been among the few schools forcing the Cavaliers.
The conference loss in Virginia alone came with her rival Virginia Tech on January 30, a 65-51 defeat. Two games ahead of that blocked result, Virginia met 11 points in the second half and held a late start to earn a 64-62 victory over the Yellow Jackets at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville. Clark Basket in the closing stages gave the winning points.
The Cavaliers held Georgia Tech far below the scoring average in that game, and this time, Virginia started with another form of defense in the first half. The Yellow Jackets missed seven consecutive goal attempts during the five-minute period before Alvarado made three points.
Virginia struggled to score again, seven minutes without a point before new Reece Beekman goalkeeper gave up three points from the top of the key to pull the Cavaliers between three at 7:37 to play in the second half.
An uncharacteristic turn against the Cavaliers in the first half; committed 10 in the first 20 minutes and trailed 26-20 at half-time. Virginia has averaged nine changes per game, the lowest in the country, but has reached double the number in that category for the fourth time in five games.
“We just sat there, and immediately got the good look and good shape that was needed,” Bennett said. “You always stick to it when you try to find your way, which is why I was so happy. I thought that our defense kept us close. ”