Clemson has been downright stingy on defense

Clemson has been downright stingy on defense

Basketball

Clemson has been downright stingy on defense

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Opponents averaging 49.8 points during Tigers' 4-game winning streak

Clemson’s basketball team has been so good on defense during its current four-game winning streak, that football’s defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, would be impressed.

When Clemson held Wake Forest and Georgia Tech to a combined 79 points in back-to-back games this past week, some pointed to the fact both of those teams struggled to shoot the basketball and ranked near the bottom of the conference in field goal percentage.

Virginia Tech, however, would be a truer test against Clemson’s improved defensive play. The 11th-ranked Hokies are one of the better shooting teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference and have one of the league’s top scorers in Nickeil Alexander-Walker, one of 20 players up for the coveted John Wooden Award.

But the Hokies looked no different than Wake or Georgia Tech. The Tigers won their fourth game in a row, and their biggest game to date, thanks to a 59-51 victory at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.

The Tigers held Virginia Tech (18-5, 7-4 ACC) to 22 second-half points thanks to 22.7 percent shooting. The Hokies made just five field goals in the second half on 22 attempts.

Clemson has now allowed an average of 1.08 points per minute in the last three games.

“I think we know how good we can be defensively,” Clemson point guard Shelton Mitchell said. “Our coaches do a great job scouting. They put us in a position every game where we don’t see anything new.

“We have walkthroughs and have meetings, so once it hits full speed, we know what’s really happening. We’re communicating more. We’ve got that confidence on the defensive end, and that makes us even better.”

Alexander-Walker found out just how good Clemson is on the defensive end of the floor. The Virginia Tech guard came into the game averaging 17.5 points per game and shooting 53.2-percent from the field and 42.4 percent from three-point range.

Against the Tigers, he shot a season-low 21.4 percent and made just three field goals on 14 attempts. He was just 1-for-5 from three-point range.

“I don’t think we have been poor on defense all year, but we have certainly elevated our play,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “There is heightened awareness. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a greater sense of urgency. I don’t know. Guys have just done a really good job.”

Clemson (15-8, 5-5 ACC) has done an excellent job in the last three games. The Hokies shot a season-low 28.3 percent from the field on Saturday and were just 5 of 19 on their three-point attempts.

The Tigers, led by center Elijah Thomas’ seven, also blocked 12 shots and had six steals.

In last Sunday’s win over Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons scored just 37 points and shot just 23.7 percent from the field. They made just 3 of 22 threes in Clemson’s 27-point win.

Clemson had 10 blocks and eight steals in that win.

Georgia Tech made just 30.2 percent of their attempts in the Tigers’ 23-point win in Atlanta this past Wednesday. The Yellow Jackets were just 4 of 12 from behind the arc. Clemson had seven steals and blocked seven shots in that win.

During its four-game winning streak, Clemson has held the opposition to 49.8 points per game, 31.7-percent shooting overall, including 26.7 percent from behind the arc. It is averaging 9.0 blocked shots per game, to go along with 6.3 steals.

“I think we have had some other games that we lost during the season that we defended reasonably well,” Brownell said. “But to beat good teams, you have to put it all together. You have to have good offense and good defense.

“There have been some games where we certainly weren’t able to do that and some of that is because of the quality of the competition that we play.”

Right now, opponents can’t keep up with the quality of defense the Tigers are playing.

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