March 5, 2011
Hokies fall 69-60 to Clemson in regular-season finale
By Jimmy Robertson
Virginia Tech (19-10, 9-7) 303060
Clemson (20-10, 9-7) 343569
  • Clemson, SC (Littlejohn Coliseum) - 10,000
  • High Points: 19 - Malcolm Delaney
  • High Rebounds: 11 - Terrell Bell

CLEMSON, S.C. – Malcolm Delaney scored 19 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Virginia Tech Hokies lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, falling to Clemson 69-60 in an ACC game played at Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.

With the loss, the Hokies fell to 19-10 overall, 9-7 in the ACC. Tech will be either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament pending the outcome of the BC-Wake Forest game on Sunday. BC clinches the No. 5 seed with a win.

“In the big picture, if someone had told me before the season that you’re going to win nine games in the league and have a winning [league] record, I’d be proud of that accomplishment,” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “It’s hard to have a winning record in this conference. To be tied for fourth, that’s something these kids should be proud of wherever we’re seeded.

“These kids have persevered pretty good. It’s easy for people to be cynical, but in the big picture, they’ve done some special things, with a limited bench and a lot of responsibility heaped upon them.

“Now, where do we stand with the NCAAs? We’re no different than anyone else. We’ve got to win games. We’ve got a lot of company. If you don’t win the opening round of the ACC, you’re in the NIT. There’s no doubt it. If you win in the opening round of the ACC, you’re definitely in the discussion.”

Clemson moved to 20-10 overall, 9-7 in the league. The Tigers will be the No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament and receive a first-round bye.

Tech never led in this one, falling behind 19-6 and making just one basket in the first nine minutes of the game. Despite 14 first-half turnovers, the Hokies scrambled back to cut the lead to four, 34-30, at halftime.

“I can’t fault our effort,” Greenberg said. “I thought we played hard for a full 40 minutes. Obviously, our start was less than stellar, but they made shots. You’ve got to give them credit.”

“We tried to force a lot at the beginning of the game,” Delaney said. “We didn’t let the game come to us. They’d hit a 3, and we’d try to respond too quick instead of taking our time and letting the game come to us.”

Tech got no closer than four points in the second half, the final time coming on an Erick Green jumper with 16:25 remaining. But the Tigers proceeded to go on a 10-0 run, extending their lead to 49-35 on a basket by Jerai Grant with 11:25 left.

The Hokies cut the lead to seven on two free throws by Delaney with 1:28 remaining, but the Tigers drained their free throws down the stretch. Clemson made 4 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final 1:06 to preserve the win.

Delaney hit 5 of 14 from the floor, including 2 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc, on a day when the Hokies struggled against Clemson’s man-to-man defense. Tech shot just 30.5 percent from the floor – its worst shooting performance of the season.

Terrell Bell added 10 points for Tech and was the only other Hokie in double figures. Jeff Allen, who scored just one basket, finished with nine points, and Manny Atkins added nine off the bench.

“For us to win, it’s real simple,” Greenberg said. “We’ve got to get more guys to contribute. We didn’t shoot the ball well. A lot of that has to do with their defense, but we had some open looks. We just didn’t finish.”

Grant paced the Tigers with 17 points, hitting 8 of 13 from the floor. Demontez Stitt added 15, and Devin Booker finished with 11. The Tigers shot 49 percent from the floor.

The Hokies will play either at 2 p.m. or at 9 p.m. on Thursday. If Tech is the No. 5 seed, it will play at 2 p.m. against Wake Forest.

“We’ve got a good opportunity ahead of us,” Delaney said. “We’ve just got to win games. We control our own destiny. If we want to get in the NCAA Tournament, we can get there. It’s still right there. We’ve just got to win games.”

For updates on Virginia Tech men's basketball, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_MBBall).

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