It would have been hard for seniors Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt to write a better scripts. The two seniors led the Tigers to a 69-60 victory over Virginia Tech Saturdayafternoon in Littlejohn Coliseum.
“Certainly it was a great win for our guys. I’m happy for the seniors. Those guys are always special, but it’s challenging sometimes to battle your emotions and play well, especially with the added significance of it being for fourth place in the league and a chance to keep our NCAA hopes alive. I thought we played well,” said Brownell.
The win puts the Tigers finish in the ACC at No. 4 and earns them a first round bye in next week’s ACC tournament. The win also helps the Tigers push towards a fourth straight NCAA appearance.
“I certainly think we have played pretty doggone well her. I know that all the games in November and December count too, and those are some of the ones that are hurting us. We’re a completely different team now than we were. All those games where you evaluate yourself against other teams in other leagues, all that has been six or eight weeks ago, so it’s hard for your leagues to move or change. But we’re playing pretty well and we have a pretty competitive group,” said Brownell.
Jerai Grant led the Tigers in scoring with 17 also pulled down nine rebounds. Demontez Stitt added 15, dished out five assists and pulled down five rebounds. Devin Booker added 14 for the Tigers while Andre Young poored in 11.
Clemson shot 49 percent on the game including 41 percent from three. The Tiger’s defense held Virginia Tech to 30 percent shooting for the game.
Demontez Stitt and Devin Booker got the Tigers started with three-pointers. Devin Booker dunked to put the Tigers up 15-6. He followed with another dunk of a missed Stitt three-pointer to make the score 17-6 with 11:57 to go in the first half.
Demontez Stitt hit another three with 9:46 to go to put the Tigers up 24-9. The Hokies went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead to 24-18.
After Tanner Smith dunked with 4:43 to go the Tigers led 27-21. A technical foul was called on Smith for hanging on the rim and Delaney hit one of two. The Tigers got a turnover and Stitt fed Narcisse for a dunk that set the crowd on fire.
Andre Young hit a long three to put the Tigers up 32-24. The Hokies finished the half on a 6-2 run to cut the make the halftime score 34-30.
Clemson started the second half with Demontez Stitt hitting a three from the corner as the clock expired. Delaney responded with a three for the Hokies.
Andre Young hit a three to put Clemson up 44-35 with 15:30 to go. Clemson stretched the lead to 47-35 on a shot by Grant. Jerai dunked to put the Tigers up 14.
The Hokies went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to seven at 51-44. Tanner Smith hit two free throws for the Tigers to stretch the lead to 53-44 with 5:56 to go Jerai Grant followed with a basket in the lane to put Clemson up 55-44. The Tigers got two stops on defense before Demontez Stitt hit two free throws to stretch the lead to 13 with 4:05 to go. Tanner Smith dunked on a fast break to make it 59-44.
Virginia Tech went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 59-49 with 2:28 to go. Jerai Grant dunked to put the Tigers back up 12. The Hokies scored five straight to cut the lead to 61-54 with 1:58 to go on a three by Delaney. Demontez Stitt scored inside, but got called for a technical after the play. Delaney hit two foul shots to cut the lead back to seven.
Tanner Smith hit two from the line to stretch the lead back to nine. The Tigers hit their free throws in the final minute to clinch the victory.
Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg wasn’t sure where he team stands with the NCAA tourney.
“Everyone wants to know where we stand with the NCAA tournament and we just have to win games. We’re no different than any other team. If we don’t win in the first round of the ACC Tournament, we’re in the NIT. If we win the first round of the tournament, we’re still in the discussion. No one has really separated themselves in this conference,” said Greenberg.
Clemson moved to 20-10 on the season and 9-7 in the ACC. The Tigers will next play Friday in the ACC tournament.