CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Joe Harris scored 21 points and outscored Clemson by himself for most of the game tonight as Virginia used one of its best defensive efforts of the year to embarrass the Tigers 78-41.
Akil Mitchell added 16 points and Justin Anderson 14 as Virginia (16-6, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) avenged one of its worst performances of the season, a 59-44 loss at Clemson on Jan. 12.
The Tigers (12-10, 4-6), who shot 77 percent in the second half of that game against the nation’s 10th-best field goal percentage defense (37.3 percent), had no such success on the Cavaliers’ home floor. Not until Devin Booker’s putback with 12:04 left made it 55-22 did they have more points than Harris.
The Tigers trailed 35-10 at halftime, the lowest scoring in a half against Virginia since Maryland did it in 1981, and became the eighth team to fail to score 20 points in a half against the Cavaliers.
K.J. McDaniels led the Tigers with 10 points while scoring leader Devin Booker had seven and Milton Jennings, who had a then-career best 21 in the victory in January, managed just two on 1-for-7 shooting.
Clemson shot 30.8 percent overall (16 of 52) and Virginia shot 55.6 percent (30 of 56).
The game was essentially over by halftime as Virginia used an early 12-0 run to open a 14-2 lead and then closed the half with a 15-0 burst. The lead could have been significantly higher with Virginia forcing 13 turnovers in the half, but Cavaliers missed nine 3-point tries before hitting three straight.
Virginia made 10 of its last 15 attempts from behind the arc.
McDaniels opened the second half with a 3-pointer for Clemson, the only one the Tigers made in 17 tries, but Harris answered with one of his own shortly thereafter and the Cavaliers never let up.
Virginia played without Darion Atkins (foot) and 6-foot-11 Mike Tobey, who is out indefinitely with mononucleosis. Coach Tony Bennett replaced struggling freshman Evan Nolte in the starting lineup with Justin Anderson, who provided an immediate spark. He scored Virginia’s first basket with a finger-roll layup, later had a block on Jordan Roper and gave the fans the highlight reel play they have come to expect from him on a regular basis with a reverse alley-oop slam off a pass from Jontel Evans.