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Tigers Fold Down the Stretch in 70-71 Loss at Virginia Tech

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The Tigers held a late lead, but the defense failed in crunch time.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers lost their 11th ACC game on the road at Virginia Tech. Prior to the game, the ESPNU commentators were discussing how soft the bubble is and the very real possibility that with eight ACC wins, the Tigers could back door their way into the NCAA tournament. That would require a 4-0 finish.

The game was back-and-forth throughout, marked by poor three-point defense and amazing three point shooting. Both teams finished above .500 from three-point territory (Clemson: 9-17, VT: 12-22). A high scoring first half ended with the Tigers trailing 38-41.

With 8:55 remaining in the game, the Hokies had seized control with a 60-53 lead, but the Tigers didn’t surrender. With 4:16 remaining, they took their first lead of the second half, 64-63. Back-and-forth it continued. The Hokies held a late 68-65 lead until Marquise Reed hit a clutch three-pointer to tie the game. After a defensive stop, Reed make a mid-range jumper to give the Tigers a 70-68 lead. Reed has been the Tigers best clutch scorer and was again tonight. He finished with 18 points.

With 0:22 remaining, The Hokies took the ball down the court and got a look in the paint. Gabe DeVoe, losing his balance and falling to the ground, got his hand on the ball and blocked the shot. It was a clean block and no foul was called, but the ball trickled out, giving the Hokies one last chance.

Unfortunately, we all knew what would happen next. Seth Allen, a 48% three-point shooter, got the ball and used a screen at the top of the three-point line to create space. C Sidy Djitte hedged well on the screen, but then inexplicably backed off to prevent a drive to the basket. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Seth Allen pulled up and drained a three-pointer to give the Hokies a 71-70 lead.

This is the second time Djitte has been on the court for a critical end of game defensive stand (Syracuse), and had been exposed by a shooter. The Tigers’ lack of execution in so many crucial defensive moments has now extended beyond bad luck. Top notch coaches in America’s best basketball conference have consistently been able to come up with plays to beat Clemson in key moments.

Even with this, the Tigers got the ball back with just under four seconds. Sadly, after watching us inbound and attempt to get a shot up against Duke, it was hard to believe the Tigers would get a shot up - and they didn’t. Almost immediately after handing the ball to Donte Grantham, he chucked it towards the middle of the court where it was promptly intercepted. Shockingly, after years of struggling with in-bounding, the Tigers have not improved in this area.

Clemson out-rebounded the Hokies 38-27, shot 53% from three, and 90% from the FT line, but still lost. The lack of execution down the stretch was striking and disheartening.

Shelton Mitchell and Eli Thomas had 14 and 12 points respectively, both on 6-10 shooting. Donte Grantham, Gabe Devoe, and Sidy Djitte combined for five points on 1-11 shooting. They had six turnovers with four from Sidy Djitte.

Unfortunately, the Tigers don’t deserve an NCAA tournament bid - barring a unlikely 3-0 end to ACC play and multiple tournament wins. They’ll play Florida State on Saturday.