Virginia (10-2, 6-0) remains the lone ACC team without a conference loss after it won its 14th straight league game dating from last season. It also defeated the Yellow Jackets (7-4, 3-2) for a seventh consecutive time and snapped their five-game winning streak.
“He’s a winner,” Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said of Clark, who overcame 1-for-10 shooting and an extended period on the bench in the first half by notching eight assists while committing no second-half turnovers. “I just see what he’s done in big settings.”
The Yellow Jackets, who got a team-high 20 points from Jose Alvarado, had a chance to win in the final seconds, but Michael Devoe’s three-pointer missed at the buzzer, allowing Virginia to escape.
The Cavaliers, playing for the first time in a week, trailed by 11 after halftime, but senior Sam Hauser sparked a 15-2 burst that featured the 6-foot-8 forward making three three-pointers, the last of which gave Virginia a 60-56 lead with 3:29 left. His jumper a minute and a half earlier had given the Cavaliers their first lead since the first half.
Devoe made a three-pointer for the Yellow Jackets to trim their deficit to 60-59. After Virginia senior center Jay Huff made a jumper to beat the shot clock, Georgia Tech’s Moses Wright did the same by sinking a three-pointer to tie the score at 62 with 1:29 remaining, setting up Clark’s clutch basket.
“I always know he’s prepared for that sort of thing,” Huff said. “He’s got ice in his veins, and [we] trust him more than anybody in a lot of ways. He makes big plays for us, and he always has, so we trust him a lot.”
Hauser led the Cavaliers with 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting; he made 4 of 5 three-point attempts for a second game in a row. Huff added 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting and a team-high five blocks. The frontcourt duo combined for 15 of Virginia’s final 19 points. They also anchored a defense that forced Georgia Tech to miss eight of its final 10 shots.
Careless ball security on the part of Virginia early in the second half helped the Yellow Jackets open a 51-42 lead with 13:40 to go. Alvarado had a steal leading to a layup during the rush, in which the Cavaliers were late in their defensive rotations as well as in closing out on jumpers.
Alvarado moments later continued to take advantage of sloppy defense, sinking a three-pointer that again bumped Georgia Tech’s lead to nine. Hauser countered with consecutive three-pointers, and the Cavaliers were within 54-51 with nine minutes to play.
This game followed another lengthy stretch without one for Virginia. The Cavaliers had been scheduled to face North Carolina State on Wednesday, but the Wolfpack reported a positive coronavirus test within the program, putting the game on hold.
The Cavaliers, who led for only 1:25 in the first half, fell behind by nine, but Hauser made a jumper and Huff’s three-pointer swished through with three seconds left to draw Virginia within 36-32 at halftime.
“Obviously we looked a little off in the first half and probably the first six, seven minutes of the second half as well, but we pulled it together,” Hauser said. “We’ve got to stick to it in practice because each conference win is big and you’ve got to cherish them for sure.”