Mar 1, 2012; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers guard Tanner Smith (5) Drives to the basket while being defended by Virginia Tech Hokies guard Dorenzo Hudson (5) during the first half at J.C. Littlejohn Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE
In a game that probably shouldn't have been as close as it was, Brad Brownell's squad came out victorious on Senior Night, beating the Hokies 58-56. As you would expect on Senior Night, Clemson got solid contributions from both Smith and Young, who combined for 24 of the 58 Tiger points.
Early things were emotional and slow for the Tigers. Virginia Tech got out to an early 5-0 lead, and following an impressive dunk by Tanner, he was called for a technical, leading to a 7-2 Hokies lead. For much of the first half, Virginia Tech led as Clemson continued to try and cut into the lead. Clemson battled back hard and went into the locker room up a bucket.
In the second half, the game was all about swings. At one point, the Tigers built an 8 point lead with 8 minutes to go and it felt like the game was all but sealed. Virginia Tech clawed back tying the game with 3:45 to go. The Tigers would not score in the final 2:30, but it was still enough. A missed layup and two late missed free throws by the Hokies sealed the win on Senior Night for the club.
As already mentioned, this game shouldn't have been this close. It was for two big reasons:
A) Clemson was 0-10 from 3
B) Virginia Tech was 8-16 from 3
When the Hokies needed three pointers in the second half they got them, when Clemson needed them they didn't. If Clemson makes even one or two three pointers during the run with 7-8 minutes left in the game, I don't think Virginia Tech would've been able to battle back. Instead, we were left with a nail biter for the second consecutive game. You just can't let a team shoot 50% from 3 on your home floor.
The hero tonight was Tanner Smith. He played for 40 minutes. He was all over the court, distributing, stealing, and assisting the Tigers to the victory. You could tell how bad he wanted this win tonight being his last game in Littlejohn. Both he and Young are not going to be easy to replace next year, and both of these guys contributions this year are a huge reason why this club is sitting at over .500 in the ACC when on paper they shouldn't even be close to that mark.
At this point, a shot in March Madness is out the window unless the Tigers pull a miracle and win the ACC tournament. 8-7 in the conference is solid, but just too many bad losses early in the season for this club to have a shot unless they win it all in Greensboro.
If you would've told me though, this team has a shot to finish the season 9-7 in the ACC after starting the season with losses to South Carolina, Coastal, and College of Charleston, I would've said you were crazy. Brownell has gotten everything out of this club this year. It's really going to be fun to watch once we start to see the development of the players he recruited in the seasons to come.