CHARLOTTESVILLE, JAN. 10 -- Call the Virginia Cavaliers undermanned, call them bricklayers or even runts, but don't question their character. For the second time this season, they bounced back from a devastating loss to a ranked team to get a morale-saving win the next day, this time a 77-75 victory over Clemson in soldout University Hall on John Johnson's fullcourt dash and layup as time expired.
"This is a huge win for us," said forward Mel Kennedy, who scored a career-high 27 points in 31 foul-plagued minutes. "It was a tough weekend, and we came out 1-1 in the ACC."
Two weeks ago, the Cavaliers bounced back from a 48-point thrashing by Oklahoma to beat Georgia by 33. All they could talk about after Saturday's 18-point loss to Duke here was that Georgia game and regaining their confidence quickly.
"Just like Georgia . . . if we lose that game or this one, our season is probably going straight downhill," center Bill Batts said.
The Tigers had the first chance to win this back-and-forth struggle, but forward Jerry Pryor, who had been their primary offensive weapon in the second half, lost the ball out of bounds with five seconds remaining. The Tigers had held the ball for 32 seconds after Johnson missed a free throw trying to complete a three-point play. Grayson Marshall lobbed the ball inside to Pryor on a play that had produced easy baskets all afternoon.
But Johnson dropped off Marshall to double-team the ball with Kenny Turner, and Pryor fumbled the ball off his leg.
From there, Johnson took charge, as he had in scoring Virginia's final seven points. After a pair of timeouts, Virginia Coach Terry Holland set up a play for Johnson to drive the ball as deep as possible and look for Kennedy popping out to the corner or Batts inside.
But Johnson took the inbounds pass from Turner at the opposite foul line, drove hard up the right sideline against Donnell Bruce and found a clear path to the basket after a quick crossover dribble at the three-point line.
Until the final minute and a half, Kennedy had owned the Virginia offense -- when he could stay in the game. The 6-5 senior forward came out firing, scoring six of Virginia's first eight points on his way to a 16-point first half. But after orchestrating a one-man 8-0 blitz to give the Cavaliers a 23-21 lead, Kennedy picked up his third foul 4:16 before halftime.
Kennedy's fourth foul came less than six minutes into the second half, for elbowing Pryor off the ball. But Clemson center Elden Campbell, the conference's leading scorer coming into the game, picked up his fourth just 33 seconds later.
Without Campbell, the Tigers turned to Pryor. The 6-7 forward scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half, mostly on power moves or lobs.
Georgia Tech 78, Wake Forest 66:
Tom Hammonds scored 19 points and the Yellow Jackets pulled away in the final 10 minutes to win the Atlantic Coast Conference game in Atlanta.
The Yellow Jackets had a 55-46 lead dwindle to 55-52 when Sam Ivy hit a three-point play and David Carlyle followed with a three-point basket with 9:55 to play.
Georgia Tech (11-2, 1-0 conference) then used a 10-0 spurt that included four points by Duane Ferrell to build a 13-point lead with less than six minutes to play.