There is no doubt about it, Clemson fans have had their fair share of heartbreak this season. The Tigers have lost 6 ACC games this season by 5 points or less, including their previous two with a buzzer beater from Syracuse, and a near upset on the road at Duke. It is only fitting that on Valentine’s Day, the Tigers would mend some broken hearts as they put together a complete performance, and the offense exploded for 95 points to snap a 3 game losing streak, and give the Tigers momentum for a stretch run in the ACC.
The Clemson offense started the night slowly with a turnover and an air balled three-pointer. Brad Brownell immediately saw something he didn’t like, and took Donte Grantham off the floor for Gabe DeVoe less than two minutes into the game. DeVoe made an immediate impact grabbing a defensive rebound and hitting his first three-point attempt after shooting 2 of his last 13 from behind the arc.
After a subpar performance against the Blue Devils, the book appeared to be out on #5. It was clear that Wake Forest was going to do everything that they could to double Blossomgame on his post entrances when he got the ball. The two teams starting shooting relatively well from the floor, but the teams just couldn’t get the shots up. Heading into the second television timeout, Clemson had turned the ball over 5 times to Wake Forest’s 4, and the Tigers were finding themselves in foul trouble with 6 fouls with just under 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
Shelton Mitchell was continuing his impressive performance from Saturday as he continued to knife into the lane for layups. Mitchell would score three straight and would tie the game at 15 with just over 10 minutes remaining. Jaron Blossomgame would finally score his first points of the game with a three-pointer to give Clemson a 20-17 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining and Clemson would look make a run. John Collins just wouldn’t allow it, scoring 6 straight as the game would continue to go back and forth.
Elijah Thomas began to assert himself with 6 of the Tigers next 8 points, but recognizing the swing in momentum, Wake would drive right at Thomas’ chest as he picked up his second foul, and would send Wake to the free throw line for the remainder of the half. In fact, much of the remainder of the first half was played from the free throw line with both teams into the bonus with still over 8 minutes to play. An impressive defensive effort from the Tigers, and an offensive explosion would give the Tigers a lead at the half. Clemson would hit 11 of their final 13 shots with balanced scoring to enter the half leading 46-32.
Clemson shot a remarkable 16-of-27 (59.3%) from the floor in a hot first half including 6 three-pointers and 8 free throws. The scoring was well balanced with only Blossomgame in double figures with 10 in a 46-point performance. Legend Robertin came in and played phenomenal defense in a stretch of over 5 minutes with Djitte and Thomas in foul trouble, allowing only 2 points to leading scorer John Collins.
Clemson would open up the second half with the same intensity that they left the floor with, and before you could blink, an Avry Holmes three-pointer ballooned the Tiger lead to 20 points as Wake would go 3 minutes without scoring a basket and Clemson was clicking on all cylinders.
Wake Forest was beginning to get frustrated on both ends of the court. The Deacon’s would commit their 14th turnover of the game with over 15 minutes remaining, and the wheels were coming off. The Deacons were fumbling the ball out of bounds, picking up silly fouls, and seemed just not interested in the game at the time.
Clemson would have to challenge themselves. All season long with a large lead, the Tigers would get complacent on offense and allow teams back into the game. A Bryant Crawford layup would trim the Tiger lead to 14, and Littlejohn Coliseum was beginning to get worried. As the teams traded baskets for a majority of the second half, the Clemson defense began to let up. Wake Forest was getting to the basket easily and a Crawford free throw would cut the Clemson lead to 13, 72-58 with 8 minutes remaining.
The Tiger fans had a reason to be worried. John Collins would drive to the lane and hit a fade away while being fouled. The free throw would cut the lead to 11 with 6:30 remaining. After the lead was cut to 9, forcing Brad Brownell to use a timeout, Jaron Blossomgame would answer the bell scoring Clemson’s first field goal in 3 and a half minutes. Blossomgame would steal the ball and be tackled going to the basket causing a Flagrant 1 foul, giving them two shots and the ball. Unfortunately, Blossomgame missed both free throws and the Tigers came up empty on the possession.
Marquise Reed would save the day after Wake would once again cut the lead to 9. Reed would drive to the lane and sink the layup and nail the three-point play to extend the lead to 12. The Tigers began to put the game away with free throws and a monstrous Legend Robertin dunk. But Wake Forest would storm back yet again. Wake would go on a 14-4 run and a Crawford 3 would cut the lead to 6 with 1:18 remaining. The Tigers continued their masterful free throw shooting, and put the game away from the stripe to come away with a 95-83 victory.
Clemson’s 95 points are the most against an ACC opponent in the Brad Brownell era, and the scoring was rather evenly spread. Marquise Reed led the Tigers with 21 points off the bench on 5-of-10 shooting, while shooting 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Blossomgame would add 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Avry Holmes and Shelton Mitchell would both finish with 15, while Mitchell added 4 rebounds and 3 assists to his stat line. Mitchell played well despite playing the second half with an ailing knee after tweaking in the contest.
Clemson shot 50.9% from the floor and an astonishing 10-of-19 (52.6%) from behind the arc (averaging 35%). They were a solid 27-35 from the free throw line. The Tigers were again badly outrebounded (36-28), but forced 18 turnovers to their 10.
It was a complete two-man game for the Demon Deacons on Tuesday night. John Collins scored a career high 29 points on 12-of-14 shooting and added 10 rebounds on the night. Collins has now scored 20 points in 9 consecutive games. Bryant Crawford added 25 points of his own on 9-of-18 shooting while adding 3 three pointers. Wake Forest did shoot 33-of-65 from the floor (50.8%) but shot only 5-of-17 from behind the arc and scored only 15 points off the bench.
The Tigers will return to action on Saturday as they travel to Miami at 12:00pm. With five contests remaining, the Tigers will need to win four of five to finish with eight ACC wins and accomplish the goals we set forth at the start of the year. Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for more Clemson Basketball coverage.