Craig Robinson's short turnaround bank shot at the buzzer enabled the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers to withstand a Clemson rally and win an Atlantic Coast Conference game, 56-54, today at Littlejohn Coliseum.
With 1:51 left and the scored tied at 54, Clemson's Horace Wyatt missed the first shot of a one and one. Virginia's Ralph Sampson controlled the rebound, and the Cavaliers called timeout with 1:32 left to set up the final shot.
With eight seconds left, guard Othell Wilson put up an off-balance 10-foot jump shot that bounced off the rim. The 7-foot-4 Sampson tipped the loose ball to Robinson, who turned around and made the shot as the buzzer sounded.
"We were really looking for Ralph inside or Jeff Jones from the right side," Wilson said. "But there was a mix-up between what time we were supposed to start the play, and I had to take that shot."
"Ralph tipped the ball and it bounced off (Fred) Gilliam's hands to me," Robinson said. "I just turned around and shot it."
"We had actually broken down offensively on the last shot," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "When I saw Robinson's shot going in, the only thing I could think of was, 'Thank goodness it went in. Let's get out of here.' "
Robinson, who scored only two other points today, said he was particularly happy to get the game-winner, because earlier in the second half he had helped trigger a Clemson rally when he was called for a technical foul. Robinson got the technical for arguing too strenuously about a personal foul he picked up while going for a rebound. It was his fourth personal, and he sat out the next 11 1/2 minutes while Clemson erased a seven-point halftime deficit.
Of the final shot, Clemson Coach Bill Foster said, "The idea was to keep Ralph away from it (the ball), and we just left Robinson open."
Wilson led Virginia with 17 points. Clemson packed a zone around Sampson and held him to seven points. But he also had 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Gilliam was the game's leading scorer with 18 points.
Virginia is now 24-1 overall, 9-1 in the ACC. Clemson is 11-10, 3-8.
"People always gun for the good teams," Holland said. "We're getting tired mentally and physically, and when you're like that, you can be beat. We ran into a team that was really fired up."
Clemson began its comeback after Robinson's technical with 16:21 to play.
Two outside jumpers by Gilliam pulled Clemson within three, and Mike Eppley's 17-footer cut the Cavalier lead to 38-37 with 14:21 to play.
After a timeout by Virginia, the Cavaliers seemed to take control of the game. Sampson blocked a shot and Ricky Stokes made two layups to build the Cavaliers' lead back to seven with 11 minutes left.
But with the crowd of 11,000 cheering for them, the Tigers rallied again. Gilliam's successful free throw on the front end of a one and one with 7:13 tied the game at 48. Clemson took a 54-52 lead when Wyatt broke past Sampson for a layup. But Wilson's jumper tied the game at 54.