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With mounting aggravations due to so many overtime losses this season, the Clemson basketball team exploded and put together one of its best games in recent memory with a 90-64 route of Virginia Saturday afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Tigers shot 52.5 percent from the field, while at the same time forcing Virginia into a season-high 29 turnovers, which resulted in 36 Clemson points.
"I definitely think some of our frustration with the overtime ones that we've lost that we really took it out Virginia today," said Tigers guard Vernon Hamilton. "Everybody played well, from the starters to the guys coming off the bench. It was a great night."
The results were the exact opposite of what each team experienced earlier in the week, with Wake Forest beating the Tigers in overtime and the Cavaliers waxing nationally ranked Boston College.
"I hate to sound like a broken record, but this team's been pretty resilient all year long," said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. "Not once have they backed up after a tough loss."
The Tigers (16-11, 5-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) jumped to double-digit lead before the game's first break and stayed in control throughout to hand Virginia (14-11, 7-7 ACC) a setback that puts a big dent in the Cavaliers' hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm not even thinking that way," said Virginia coach Dave Leito. "The NCAA is something that happens at the end of the year as a reward for playing your tail off. We're in year one and we've got eight scholarship guys and we're just trying to make it."
Shawan Robinson scored 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc to pace the Tigers. His 15 first half points led Clemson to a 46-35 halftime lead, although the Tigers were up by as many as 25.
Helping Clemson's cause in the first half were the 16 turnovers by the Cavaliers, which led to 18 points for the Tigers. Virginia entered the contest averaging just 14.2 turnovers per game.
"I knew we were causing them to turn the ball over, but 29?" Hamilton said. "That just goes and shows that we are one of the better defensive teams in this league."
By getting five steals, Hamilton, a junior, tied Clemson's single season record with 73 steals, which was set by Chris Whitney in 1992-93. He only needs three more to tie Terrell McIntyre's career mark of 194.
The Cavaliers managed to pull within nine at 49-40 early in the second half, but Clemson followed by going on a 17-5 run to make it 66-45 with 11:16 remaining to play.
Other than Robinson, Clemson was paced by the inside presence of starting center Akin Akingbala, who scored 14 points, and reserve center Steve Allen, who scored 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting.
Sean Singletary led Virginia with 25 points and J.R. Reynolds added 16.
Virginia's Jason Cain, who averages more than 32 minutes of playing time in conference games and who is regarded by many as the ACC's most improved player, played only seven minutes in the first half after he barked at assistant coach Steve Seymour. He finished with nine minutes played.
But Cain's presence really wouldn't have mattered, especially in a game like this.
"I don't know what it was, but you enjoy those kind of games like that," Robinson said.
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