The Clemson Tigers (22-7) (11-6) used another clutch performance by Marcquise Reed and company to put away the Florida State Seminoles (19-10) (8-9) by a score of 76-63 on Wednesday evening at Littlejohn Coliseum. The victory for the Tigers sets a program record for wins in conference play and pushes them closer to clinching a double-bye as a top four seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Clemson also managed to gain revenge on the Seminoles who just more than a week ago overcame an 18-point deficit to defeat the Tigers in overtime, halting a four-game winning streak and forcing Point Guard Shelton Mitchell to miss two games with a concussion.
From the opening tipoff, it was clear that the Tigers focus was to turn up the defensive intensity. A pair of three-pointers, combined with a solid defensive effort propelled the Tigers to an early 8-2 lead. Prior to the game, Coach Brad Brownell noted the importance of keeping Center Elijah Thomas in the game, saying that he needed 20 to 25 minutes from his starting center with no “stupid” fouls. It didn’t appear Brownell wouldn’t get what he wished for as Thomas picked up his first foul in the first four minutes of the game, and was sent to the bench for an extended period of time. Florida State used the opportunity to go on two separate 7-0 runs, before Thomas returned. Fortunately, he’d end with four personal fouls in 24 minutes of play.
It is no secret that as Gabe DeVoe goes, so does the Clemson offense. DeVoe would start the game 0-for-4 from the field, including a couple of missed layups as the athleticism of the Seminole defense caused the Tiger offense to go stagnant. The Tiger offense was finally awakened when DeVoe was fouled by PJ Savoy while attempting a three-point shot. DeVoe would make all three free throws and promptly nail his first three-pointer of the game on the ensuing possession. With Thomas back on the floor and DeVoe seeming to find his rhythm, the Tigers would overcome a nine-point deficit and take a 35-32 lead into the locker room thanks to a 20-12 rebounding advantage leading to 9 second chance points.
The Tigers struggled the entire first half scoring in the paint due to the size and athleticism of the Seminoles, but that changed coming out of the locker room as Clemson looked for Elijah Thomas in the paint against 7’4” Junior Christ Koumadje. Thomas scored back-to-back buckets early to extend the Tiger lead, before picking up a third foul and being sent back to the bench.
With the teams trading barbs for most of the second half, including a stretch of over three minutes of game time where the score remained tied at 45, there were two incidents on the court that sparked the Tigers and elicited the energy that they would need to pull away from the Seminoles down the stretch. With just over ten minutes remaining and the Tigers struggling with the full court pressure of the Noles all evening, CJ Walker picked the pocket of Marcquise Reed as he attempted to dribble the ball into the frontcourt and made a transition layup. Walker appeared to turn and say something to Reed on his way back down the court which appeared to enrage the Junior Guard, who promptly took the ball down the court, created his own shot, and hit the jumper while being fouled. Reed emphatically pumped his fist on the ground after the basket and the play sparked a 9-2 Clemson run to put the Tigers back up by seven points.
The final push for the Tigers took place after a loose ball scramble on the defensive side of the court. Shelton Mitchell appeared to grab the ball and attempt to call timeout, but was not granted the timeout and the held ball possession went to the Seminoles. This appeared to ignite Elijah Thomas, who was pertinent down the stretch with his interior play and rebounding to securing the Clemson win. Thomas grabbed three rebounds in the last four minutes and shot 2-of-3 from the field in the second half, while adding three free throws. David Skara would secure the victory for the Tigers by grabbing two key defensive rebounds and finding Shelton Mitchell open at the top of the key for the game sealing three-pointer, as Clemson picked up their program record 11th ACC victory, with a final score of 76-63.
Marcquise Reed led the way for the Tigers, scoring 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and added 7 rebounds and 5 assists to his stat line to again lead the Tigers in scoring. Gabe DeVoe ended the game with 13 points, but on 3-of-12 shooting, but did manage to grab 5 rebounds of his own in the victory. Shelton Mitchell and Eli Thomas rounded out the double figure scorers with 11 points apiece, with Thomas grabbing 8 rebounds on the day. Clemson shot 23-57 (40.4%) from the field on the evening and outrebounded the Noles 39-30. Stat of the night for the Tigers was the 9 turnovers on the evening, an excellent response to the game in Tallahassee where the Tigers turned the ball over 21 times in the overtime loss.
Florida State was all but a one-man-show on the evening as Senior Phil Cofer led the team in scoring with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-9 shooting from three-point range. Cofer grabbed 7 rebounds to lead the Noles in that category as well. Senior Guard Braian Angola was the only other member of the Florida State team in double figures on the evening with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Angola made 3 of his 4 three-point attempts, a remarkable feat as he had made only 1 of his prior 21 attempts coming into the game.
With the victory, Clemson moves into a third-place tie in the ACC standings with North Carolina (11-6) and puts the pressure on the NC State Wolfpack to continue to win if they want to clinch the double-bye in the ACC tournament as NC State currently holds the tiebreaker in the ACC standings thanks to their victory over Duke. Clemson will conclude the regular season Saturday afternoon as they travel to the Carrier Dome to take on the Syracuse Orange. Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for all your basketball coverage.