Clemson had its way with some of the lesser teams in the ACC over the past couple of weeks as the Tigers dug out of a 1-5 start to league play to get back in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth.
That success carried over into Saturday afternoon as the Tigers topped No. 11 Virginia Tech 59-51 at Littlejohn Coliseum. The victory improves Clemson to .500 in league play and is Clemson’s fourth consecutive ACC win. Clemson is now 15-8 (5-5) entering Wednesday night’s game at Miami. The Hokies drop to 18-5 (7-4) with the loss.
“Great week for our team, obviously capped it off with a good performance today,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “Defensively our guys again did a really good job. I thought we were a little bit tired and had a couple of guys that weren’t feeling great, but we just kind of gutted it out.”
Virginia Tech made only 28 percent of its shots from the field while being held to its second lowest point total of the season.
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The Hokies made one field goal over the final 8:33 of the game, a 3-pointer by Ty Outlaw with 13 seconds remaining to cut Clemson’s lead to 59-51, but it was too little, too late at that point as Clemson had already built a big lead.
“All credit to coach (Brownell), their program and their staff. I thought that they defended us incredibly well,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “Arguably they’re the hottest team in the league. Other than the last possession at N.C. State they could’ve been on a four-game winning streak (entering Saturday).”
The loss at N.C. State that Williams referenced could have led to Clemson falling apart. The Tigers blew a late lead and missed several free throws in the final minute before losing at the buzzer.
Instead, the Tigers have won four consecutive games since that time by an average of 18 points.
“I think it speaks to the way our program is,” Brownell said. “I think we have a good program. We’re trying to have a good program and it’s hard. There’s a lot of good teams out there... Your resiliency is tested much quicker.”
Shelton Mitchell led the Tigers with 22 points and got off to a blazing hot start, scoring 18 points in the first half while shooting 5-for-6 from 3-point range.
Mitchell finished 7 of 14 from the field and had five rebounds and three assists, in addition to his 22 points.
“I’ve been getting in a lot of extra reps, more than I have probably ever. I’ve always been shooting a lot but now it’s basically double that up. I’ve been shooting even more,” Mitchell said. “This was a big week. We played three games in six days and to sweep through the whole week and especially finish it out against a good team like Virginia Tech at home and to hold them to 51 points, that one felt good.”
Marcquise Reed added 15 points and made all seven of his free throw attempts, including two in the final 30 seconds to put the game away. Reed is shooting 83 percent from the free-throw line since going 0-for-4 in the final minute at N.C. State.
Elijah Thomas added six points, nine rebounds and seven blocks while battling foul trouble.
“The way Virginia Tech plays they’re going to make it hard for you to get the ball in good position to your post players,” Brownell said. “He’s got to be unselfish. He’s got to do other things. I thought he battled through foul trouble today and defensively I thought he was a major factor.”
Virginia Tech was led by Kerry Blackshear, who scored 17 points with seven rebounds. The Hokies were playing without senior Justin Robinson, who is out with an injury. Robinson is the second leading scorer for the Hokies, averaging 14 points per game.