Clemson and Georgia Tech have been battling on the hardwood since 1913 and the script has played out the same many times with low scoring, hard fought battles that frequently play out until the final seconds. The Tigers split the season series last season, but have won 11 of the last 12, and 18 of the last 23 to make the series particularly one sided over the past decade. Today's contest seemed to usher in a new era as Georgia Tech appears to be on the rise, and Clemson is the most offensively gifted it has been in the Brad Brownell era.
Clemson jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, but the foul trouble that had plagued them almost all season reared its ugly head as Landry Nnoko and Sidy Djitte picked up their first fouls within 1 minute of each other and found themselves both on the bench in the first 3 minutes of the contest to prevent further foul issues. Georgia Tech took advantage pounding the lane against seldom used Legend Robertin to go on a 10-2 run and take a 16-8 lead before Djitte checked back into the game after the 2nd media timeout.
Donte Grantham ended the Georgia Tech run a 3-pointer, but the early damage was done as Tech had nailed 9 of their first 13 shots while the Tigers were struggling from behind the arc. Georgia Tech would cool down and Blossomgame would take over scoring 13 points in the first half including 5 in a row to pull Clemson closer to the hot starting Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech would find a lid on the basket towards the end of the first half, not scoring a field goal in the final 6 and a half minutes as a pair of Donte Grantham free throws allowed Clemson to regain the lead with 1:39 remaining in the half. Clemson ended the half on a 10-3 run as Jordan Roper stole an inbound pass with 4 seconds remaining and nailed a mid-range jump stop to give Clemson the halftime lead 32-37.
With a 5 point lead at the half, the Clemson defense had stiffened up to cool down the hot shooting Yellow Jackets, but rebounding had to be addressed. Georgia Tech was out-rebounding the Tigers 21-14 with Charles Mitchell doing most of the damage. Despite a poor shooting first half with only one 3-pointer made, Clemson had the lead.
The start of the 2nd half saw Clemson with the opportunity to put the game out of reach as the 5 point lead lasted for the first 5 minutes before Clemson got sloppy. After two rushed shots by Donte Grantham, followed by a turnover, Quinton Stephens would pull up and nail Georgia Tech's only 3-point basket of the game to cut the lead to 43-42 and give Georgia Tech some momentum.
Jordan Roper had the answer for Clemson as he scored 5 consecutive points, including the second and final 3-pont basket for the Tigers to push the lead back to 6, but Clemson would get sloppy again. Back-to-back turnovers by Sidy Djitte and Jordan Roper cut the lead back to 2 and gave the Yellow Jackets the ball with a chance to tie the game with 8 minutes remaining, but Tech would hand the momentum right back with 2 consecutive turnovers of their own leading to fast break points for Clemson, swelling the lead back to 6. Georgia Tech wouldn't come any closer as the Tigers made their free throws down the stretch to finish off the Yellow Jackets and a 66-52 victory.
Jaron Blossomgame led the Tigers with 17 points on 5-of-16 shooting and added 7 rebounds while shooting 7-of-7 from the free throw line. Jordan Roper was the only other Tiger in double figures adding 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting while grabbing 5 rebounds. Clemson managed to win despite its worst 3-point shooting performance of the year shooting only 2-of-13 (15.4%) from behind the arc.
Georgia Tech was lead in scoring by Adam Smith with 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting followed by Charles Mitchell who scored 11 points and grabbed an astonishing 19 rebounds (6 offensive) to make the rebounding numbers a bit uneven in the first half. After scoring 30 points in their previous game against Wake Forest, Marcus Georges-Hunt was held to only 10 points (6 from the free throw line) on only 2-of-7 shooting.
Game Note: Clemson's bench may have only provided 8 points, (6 from Sidy Djitte) but it certainly made an impact as Sophomore Guard Gabe DeVoe grabbed 9 rebounds on the day and made himself a presence on the defensive end.
Game Note: With a free-throw late in the first half, Jaron Blossomgame became the 38th Tiger in school history to join the 1,000 point club. Congratulations from all of us at Shakin the Southland on an outstanding achievement.
Clemson will welcome the Boston College Golden Eagles on Wednesday night at 7:00pm at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, in another must win game if Clemson looks to make a late push towards the NCAA tournament. Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for more Clemson Basketball updates.