Yes, Virginia, Kihei Clark is still around.
The fifth-year point guard will move a step closer to the Cavaliers’ career record for games played on Tuesday night when No. 3 Virginia hosts in-state neighbor James Madison at Charlottesville, Va.
Clark not only tied Joe Harris for fourth place in school history with his 135th game on Saturday, he played an essential role in keeping the Cavaliers (7-0) unbeaten. He scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the second half as Virginia opened Atlantic Coast Conference play with a 62-57 home victory against Florida State.
Virginia trailed 22-21 at halftime but Clark helped the Cavaliers overcome cold shooting from the floor by sinking 9 of 10 free throws, including 7 of 8 in the second half to hold off the Seminoles’ late comeback bid.
“For a little guy, his strength is his IQ,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said of the 5-foot-10, 167-pound Clark, who was a freshman on Virginia’s 2018-19 national championship team.
Clark is averaging just shy of his career best in a season with 10.7 points per game to go along with 4.7 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals. He is shooting a career-best 42.9 percent from 3-point range and has turned the ball over 13 times in seven games.
“You play for these types of games and these moments,” Clark said after beating Florida State. “It’s a great battle, and I always look forward to playing those guys.”
Clark will tie Malcolm Brogdon for third place Tuesday night when he plays his 136th game. The school record is 138, shared by London Perrantes (2013-17) and Mike Tobey (2012-16). Clark also ranks fourth on the career list in assists (572) at Virginia.
“I very seldom see him make a bad decision, and that’s rare,” Hamilton said. “I told him as I shook his hand, ‘I’ll be glad when you’re gone.’ He smiled.”
Clark and the Cavaliers have familiarity with their next opponent, too. James Madison (7-2) stunned Virginia 52-49 last season at Harrisonburg, Va., with Clark and Armaan Franklin both missing 3-pointers in the final seconds.
Virginia had won the first 11 games in the series with James Madison.
The Dukes’ only losses this season were an 80-64 decision at then-No. 1 North Carolina on Nov. 20 and an 81-79 overtime defeat to Valparaiso on Nov. 27 in a tournament at Savannah, Ga.
“They can score and they’re good and they took it to us last year,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said, “and we’ll have to be ready.”
James Madison is coming off a 97-80 victory against Eastern Kentucky on Friday night. Noah Freidel and Terrence Edwards had 17 points each to lead the Dukes, with Julien Wooden adding 16, Justin Amadi scoring 15 and Mezie Offurum chipping in 13 on a night when JMU shot 61.0 percent from the field.
James Madison has scored 95 or more points six times already this season.
“Maintaining conditioning (is key),” Offurum told the JMU school newspaper The Breeze. “Our playing style is really fast, so being able to maintain that pace for an entire duration, that’s how we’re gonna keep scoring a lot.”
The Dukes have moved to the Sun Belt Conference this season after a long run in the Colonial Athletic Association (1985-2022).
–Field Level Media