CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Braxton Key scored a game-high 19 points, including two big three-pointers at the end of the game, and the Virginia men’s basketball team held on to beat Clemson 51-44 at John Paul Jones Arena Wednesday night.
UVa jumped out to a 14-2 lead in the first half, and they were up 26-14 at halftime, but the Tigers cut the deficit to 36-34 on a three-pointer from former Blue Ridge star Aamir Simms with 6:03 to play.
Key answered with a three of his own with 4:50 left, and connected again with 1:28 remaining.
The senior was 4-for-6 from behind the line, and scored nine of his team’s final 15 points.
Key says, “We were running three-game and I didn’t touch the ball much the second half so I told Kihei [Clark], ‘find me, I’ll just make a play’ and I made a couple plays for the team and got to the free throw line one time, hit a couple threes. I was just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win, my shot felt great tonight so I just was going with that.”
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell says, "He is just an older player that saw his team needed him to play. He played well and he took it upon himself to make big shots. That is what good, older players do. He has been around a lot of winning here and he has seen other guys do it. I am sure he feels like that is a part of his job here and I just think he stepped up and made some big plays.”
UVa head coach Tony Bennett says, “You get to these points where you have played some really good basketball, [they] defended really well, and then their zone gave us some trouble where you do have to stick some shots. We were spinning the wheel trying to figure out can we run this action against it, and they did a good job matching up. Sometimes you just need someone at that point to make a big shot or make a big play and Braxton [Key] did that twice and we certainly needed it. We gave up a couple, we had a free throw rebound and had that double-dribble and that turnover late. They started turning the game around then and closing the gap. He bailed us out.”
Simms scored a team-high 16 points for Clemson.
Jay Huff had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the 'Hoos, while Mamadi Diakite added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Virginia (15-6, 7-4 ACC) will be back in action at #5 Louisville on Saturday.