ATLANTA – Erick Green scored a game-high 24 points, and the Virginia Tech Hokies made 5 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final 34 seconds to hold off Clemson 68-63 in an ACC Tournament first-round game played Thursday night at Philips Arena.
With the win, the Hokies, seeded 10th in the tournament, moved to 16-16 overall on the season, and they improved to 3-1 in ACC Tournament first-round games. Seventh seed Clemson fell to 16-15 overall.
With the game tied at 52, the Hokies went on a 9-0 run that started with back-to-back 3-pointers by Dorenzo Hudson and Green, the latter coming with 3:51 left in the game. A Cadarian Raines free throw and a stick-back by Dorian Finney-Smith with 2:23 to go ended the run and gave the Hokies a 61-52 lead.
Clemson cut the lead to four, 61-57, on a 3-pointer by Devin Coleman with 1:48 remaining, but the Tigers hurt themselves shoddy free-throw shooting. They made just 3 of 8 in the final 1:17 of the game.
In contrast, the Hokies nailed 5 of 6 in the waning moments, including two each by Hudson and Green. Green’s two free throws with 20.7 seconds left gave Tech a 66-60 lead, and after a 3-pointer by Clemson’s Milton Jennings with 17 seconds remaining, Hudson knocked down two free throws with 15 seconds left to seal the game.
“We talked all week about finishing and making one more play,” Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said. “One more stop, one more 50-50 balls, take a charge, make an extra pass … just one more play. That’s the thing that has eluded us this season.
“We showed that toughness that is Virginia Tech basketball. When you have that, you find a way to win one of these games. We stepped up on the line and made the free throw – and they knew they were going to make those free throws. It’s a great credit to these guys, just their resiliency. We’ve played so many close games, and they still come to practice every day. For it all to come together tonight and give us a chance to play another game, I’m just proud of these guys.”
Green played a great game for the Hokies, hitting 7 of 11 from the floor, including 2 of 4 from beyond the 3-point arc. He also made all eight of his free-throw attempts. His 24 points were the second-most points scored by a Tech player in an ACC Tournament game (A.D. Vassallo, 26 vs. UNC, 2009).
Hudson also played well, scoring 19 points and hitting 6 of 12 from the floor, including 3 of 7 from beyond the 3-point arc. Like Green, he made all of his free-throw attempts, going 4 for 4 from the line.
As a team, Tech made 17 of 20 from the stripe.
“Me and Dorenzo are roommates, and we talked a lot about it [the game] coming down to the end,” Green said. “We both stepped up to the line, and we both made good plays and showed leadership tonight. I’m just proud of my team. We hung in there and dug down deep, and we finished. That’s the main thing we did tonight. I’m so proud of these guys, and hopefully we can get it going tomorrow [Friday].”
“Coming into the tournament, everything will come down to one play,” Hudson said. “I feel like we’re ready to step up to the line and make the free throws, like we did tonight. We’re going to try and stick with it, and try to move forward.”
The Hokies only shot 41.5 percent from the floor for the game, but Tech made up for it at the free-throw line and by out-rebounding the bigger Tigers 31-29. Plus, the Hokies’ defense in the second half was outstanding, as Tech held Clemson to just 37.5 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes.
Devin Coleman paced the Tigers with 15 points off the bench, and both Milton Jennings and Andre Young each scored 13. But Young scored 11 of his in the first half and failed to make a field goal in the second half. He went the final 11:19 without scoring.
“I think we just gave more help,” Greenberg said. “We took away their room-and-rhythm shots. We did a great job of helping off the passer, and he [Green] was tough as nails.
“I thought we guarded the ball a lot better in the second half, so that we didn’t have to over-help and could stay home on the shooters.”
Tech now gears up for its third meeting of the season with Duke. The Hokies lost both of the previous meetings, including the last one in overtime at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The game tips off at approximately 7 p.m.
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