NEW YORK – As two of the best backcourts in the ACC went head-to-head on Thursday afternoon, Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell shined down the stretch.
Thanks to Mitchell’s performance, Clemson is headed to the ACC Tournament semifinals for the first time in seven years following the Tigers’ 90-82 victory over Boston College at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Tigers were clicking on all cylinders early in the second half and built a a 16-point lead over the Eagles with 13:45 to play. But it wasn’t long until BC responded and rallied to cut Clemson’s lead to two points, 63-61, with 5:49 to go after Ky Bowman’s three-pointer.
Bowman’s dagger capped an 11-2 run.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Mitchell said. “They were going to make a run at some point. Really we just knew if we could try to eliminate their easy shots, make them take tough twos, we could get stops, rebound and run, and then they would have to get back and play transition defense.
“They’re a good team, so really just weather the storm, stay together and try and make a lot of winning plays at the end when it mattered.”
That’s exactly how the senior guard responded. Following the Eagles 11-2 run, Mitchell hit a jumper to extend the Tigers’ lead to 65-61 with 5:26 to play, which ultimately shifted momentum back to Clemson’s side.
“Really I just saw an opening,” Mitchell said. “I think I forgot who it was, I think (David) Skara had a good screen, and I had a big backing up, so I felt like I could make that shot. And really just making free throws. Really just staying focused. We shoot free throws all the time in practice. So just sticking to the same routine, I was confident I was going to be able to knock them down.”
Mitchell hit 7-of-8 free throws from there and a layup that extended the Tigers’ lead to 10 with 2:23 to go. He finished with 21 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 2-for-5 from three-point range, while adding four boards.
“I feel like just as we’ve done all season, just staying composed when those situations happen,” Gabe DeVoe said. “The game got close, and we made a couple big plays on the offensive end and were able to get stops defensively, were rebounding the ball well, so it just helped out down the stretch.”
The poise Clemson has demonstrated throughout the season has nonetheless driven the Tigers to be in a position many doubted they would be in … vying for a chance to win the ACC Tournament.
Clemson will tip-off against Virginia on Friday night at 7 p.m.