Clemson used an 18-0 second-half run to climb back in the ball game and managed to overcome a career night from Tech’s Malcolm Delaney to claim an 86-82 ACC victory over the Hokies on Thursday night at Cassell Coliseum.
The loss snapped the Hokies’ five-game winning streak and left Tech at 14-6 overall, 4-2 in the ACC. The Tigers, ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll and 11th in the coaches’ poll, won their second straight game, moving to 18-2 overall, 4-2 in the league, and they extended their winning streak over Tech to four games.
“We did a lot of good things,” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said following the game. “They just did a few more.”
Tech led 63-48 after Delaney canned a 3-pointer with 16:39 remaining and appeared to be in control of the game. But the Tigers stormed back.
A switch to a half-court trapping defense propelled the Tigers on that 18-0 run, with guard K.C. Rivers scoring seven of those points, and they took a 66-63 lead on two free throws by Trevor Booker with 10:18 left. Jeff Allen snapped the skid for Tech with a free throw with 9:46 remaining, but the Hokies didn’t score a field goal again until Hank Thorns’ lay-up with 7:50 to go. Tech went without a bucket for nearly nine minutes.
Still, as expected, the game was close at the end. With the score tied at 80, Clemson’s David Potter made arguably the shot of the game when he drained a 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining to give the Tigers a three-point lead. Tech cut the lead to one on a lay-up by Dorenzo Hudson with 1:11 remaining, but Rivers scored with 48.4 seconds to go to give the Tigers an 85-82 lead.
On Tech’s next possession, Delaney missed the front end of a one-and-one, and while the Hokies managed to secure the rebound, A.D. Vassallo missed a short jumper from the right wing. Clemson got the rebound and Tech fouled Potter with 27 seconds left. Potter made the first free throw to give the Tigers and 86-82 lead.
Tech wasn’t able to cut into the lead any more, as Delaney missed two 3-pointers in the final 12 seconds and Clemson escaped with another close win over the Hokies.
“We just lost our composure in the second half,” Delaney said. “We had the game in our hands the whole game. We went away from what was working. They went on that run in the second half and we just stopped running.
“We knew they were going to make a run. But we didn’t contest shots and they hit open shots. We let Rivers get hot and that killed us. I think we kind of folded and beat ourselves.”
The sour ending overshadowed a career night for Delaney. The sophomore from Baltimore, Md., scored 37 points, hitting 11-of-17 from the floor, including 6-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc. He also drained 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
The points, field goals, and 3-pointers all were career highs for Delaney.
“I don’t care about that right now,” Delaney said. “We lost the game. All that other stuff is out the window.”
Rivers led Clemson’s comeback, scoring 15 of his 29 points in the second half. For the game, he hit 10-of-17 from the floor, including 7-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc. As a team, Clemson drained 14 3-pointers – the most allowed by the Hokies this season – and shot 56 percent from beyond the arc for the game.
“You’ve got to give Rivers credit,” Greenberg said. “He made big, big-time shots. He came into the game struggling [4-of-16 from the floor in the past two games] and he comes out and has a huge game.
“You’ve got to finish [games] and we’d been finishing well the last couple of weeks. You’ve also got to get stops. It’s all about getting stops. If you get stops, you score. If you don’t get stops, it’s hard to score.”
Jeff Allen added 13 points and nine boards for the Hokies, who shot 50.8 percent from the floor, but got out rebounded 39-35 and committed 14 turnovers. Vassallo finished with 10.
Clemson got a double-double from Booker, who scored 21 points and grabbed 13 boards.
The Hokies will try to right the ship on Saturday when they travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., for a game against Boston College. Tech won the first meeting 79-71 at Cassell on Jan. 17. Tip off for the game is slated for 8 p.m.
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