In a game that set basketball back several decades, Clemson prevailed 51 - 50 over Virginia Tech in the ultimate rock fight. This win pushes Clemson’s record to 16-4 and and a league leading 8-1 in the ACC.
It wasn’t pretty, in fact, it was ugly, horrid, and putrid but a W is a W and I’ll never turn my nose up at a Clemson basketball win. Points were at a premium tonight in Littlejohn Coliseum, and Hunter Tyson collected 3 of them with 12 seconds remaining to break 50 points and propel the Tigers to their 8th ACC victory.
The first half was a battle for the home standing Tigers. PJ Hall and Hunter Tyson handled the majority of the scoring. Hall’s jumper at the 17:40 mark of the first half started Clemson’s scoring. Hunter Tyson scored his first bucket on a free throw after a Virginia Tech technical foul at 17:09. The rest of the half was a study in bad offensive basketball, and decent defense from both squads. Hall and Tyson put up all but 8 of Clemson’s first half points in an offensive struggle marked by scoring droughts from both teams. The Hokies hit the locker room with a 31-26 lead on the back of Clemson turncoat Lynn Kidds’s 8 points off the bench.
If the first half was ugly, the second half was ugly after getting hit in the face by a 2x4. Neither team could buy a bucket. At times it looked like Clemson installed carnival rims, in hopes of not giving away the premium stuffed animals. Virginia Tech’s Jeff Mutts scored the first 2 points for the Hokies at the 19:09 mark in the second half. They wouldn’t score again until Sean Pedulla knocked down a pair of free throws with 14:35 remaining. Meanwhile, Clemson refused to cash in on Virginia Tech’s offensive futility. PJ Hall scored Clemson’s first points of the second half with a layup with 17 minutes to go, followed by an Ian Schieffelin 4-point explosion from the free throw line over the next minute of play to tie the game 33 with 16 minutes remaining.
Over those last 16 minutes, Clemson scored 18 points, and Virginia Tech could only muster 17. P.J. Hall was the star of the show, putting up 8 of the Tigers 18 points. Dillon Hunter provided a boost off the bench, scoring all 6 of his points in the final 16 minutes of the game. Hunter Tyson, after a relatively quiet second half, put the turkeys out of their misery with a clutch 3 pointer with 12 seconds remaining to give the Tigers an insurmountable 1 point lead.
Folks, this thing was ugly in ways only college basketball can be ugly. Clemson shot 38% from the field including a frigid 17% (3-18) from 3. Normally that gets you beat but Virginia Tech was somehow worse, shooting 35% from the field, including a 27% (6-22) performance from behind the arc. Clemson turned the ball over 17 times, and Va Tech 14 times. Free throw shooting was the one area where Clemson differentiated itself, going 12-15 (80%) from the line. The Hokies went 8-12 from the line, and in a game where points were few and far between, the Tigers ability to cash in the free ones at a solid clip told the story.
This game won’t go down in the annals of ACC History, but it keeps Clemson on top of the ACC. It’s January 21st, and if I have to watch eye ball bleed inducing basketball every game for the next 2 months, and Clemson manages to stay on top, I’ll gladly forfeit the blood. Clemson is all about GRIT, and things don’t get much grittier than a 51-50 victory. In the end, Clemson’s big two of PJ Hall and Hunter Tyson drug Brad Brownell’s squad across the finish line, accounting for 32 of Clemson’s 51 points. Dillon Hunter had his best game to date for the Tigers, chipping in a crucial 6 points with his brother Chase still in street clothes, dealing with the ubiquitous Clemson foot injury.
The Tigers need to refill their rock supply in short order with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets hitting Tiger Town in the midst of a 6-game losing steak. The Jackets have lost 8 of their last 9 games, with only one of those losses coming by less than 10 points. The Tigers need to squash the Jackets to continue to build their conference lead. Brad Brownell’s squad only has 2 games remaining in the regular season against ranked opponents, and KenPom has them favored to win 8 of their remaining 11 games. If they manage to win the games they are favored to win, they’ve got a chance to pull out one of the most improbable regular season ACC Championships in modern history.