Basketball was the main event on Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum but football managed to steal some of the spotlight during Clemson’s Atlantic Coast Conference matchup with Virginia.
When highlights of Tajh Boyd’s fourth-and-long completion to DeAndre Hopkins – the one that kept alive Clemson’s game-winning drive against LSU in last month’s Chick-fil-A Bowl – began rolling on the Jumbotron, a huge roar went up from the crowd.
Then when the scene switched to the field goal that Chandler Catanzaro kicked to defeat LSU, 25-24, the arena got as loud as it would get until Brad Brownell’s team put the hammer down in a 59-44 victory.
After the highlights football coach Dabo Swinney came onto the court to accept the winners’ trophy from the bowl, while Boyd joined him moments later and was presented with his MVP award.
HITTING THEIR STRIDE?
Milton Jennings said his team’s first ACC conquest of the 2012-13 season might’ve been the catalyst needed to help the Tigers made a big push in the league.
“I told the guys, ‘Hey, we’re down two (two losses) but let’s win the next one and then the rest of them,’” Jennings said. “Now we have to back it up Tuesday (against Wake Forest). That game is huge and now we have to do what we did today.”
Brownell said he likes Jennings’ passion but he isn’t looking part Tuesday.
“We just need to worry about what’s next,” Brownell said. “You have to find a way to win a game and today was important because we found a way to win. Now we have to worry about an improved Wake team.”
Virginia coach Tony Bennett says when Clemson’s clicking on all cylinders it’s a difficult team to defend. The primary cylinders on Saturday were Jennings and Devin Booker, who combined for 36 points and 20 rebounds, but at various points during the game everyone got in on the act.
“They put a lot of pressure on you because a lot of times they’re feeding four or five,” Bennett said. “It’s a fight for position and I think you just have to try to be good on the ball and make them earn their catches. I thought we battled hard, but after a while they just wore us down.”
Clemson was without the services of freshman guard Jordan Roper on Saturday.
Roper, who had played in the Tigers’ previous 14 games with four starts and four double figure games, sprained his ankle during Friday’s practice session and was unable to take the floor against Virginia.
The two-time all-state selection out of Irmo – who scored 1,698 points in his prep career – is averaging 6.8 points per game in his first college season.
His was Clemson’s leading scorer with 16 points in an 80-57 victory over Florida A&M in Dec. 15 and had played 20 or more minutes in six consecutive games before Saturday.