Mitchell scored 22 points in Clemson's upset win
Shelton Mitchell scored 22 points, while Marcquise Reed and David Skara made clutch baskets in the final three minutes as Clemson upset No. 11 Virginia Tech, 59-51, Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
The win was the Tigers’ fourth straight and moved them to 5-5 in ACC play. Clemson is 15-8 overall after the win over the Hokies. After losing to Louisville early this week, Saturday’s loss to Clemson marked the first time this year Virginia Tech lost two straight games.
“It was big,” Mitchell said afterward. “This was a big week. What, we played three games in six days? And then to sweep through the whole week, and especially finish it out against a good team like Virginia Tech at home and held them to 51 points, that felt good.”
It also felt good to snap a four-game losing streak to Virginia Tech, while winning their first game over a ranked team this season.
“We capped it off with a good performance today, and I really think Shelton Mitchell was a difference maker, especially early, shooting the ball. That really helped us,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “Defensively, our guys again did a really good job. I thought we were a little bit tired. I had a couple of guys that were not feeling great and we just kind of gutted it out.”
One of those guys who was not feeling well, was Skara. Brownell said the senior was sick and fought through practice on Friday before coming in Saturday and shutting down Virginia Tech’s leading scorer, Nickeil Alexander-Walker. 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.
On Saturday, Skara harassed Alexander-Walker into five turnovers, while limiting him to 13 points on 3-of-14 shooting (21.4 percent), including just 1-of-5 from behind the arc. Before the game Alexander-Walker was named one of the 20 players remaining on the watch list for the John Wooden Award.
Down the stretch, Clemson smothered the Hokies, who did not make a field goal for more than eight minutes, a cold spell that ended when Ty Outlaw hit a three-pointer from the corner with 13 seconds to play. They went 0-for-5 from the field and turned the ball over three times during that stretch.
“We made it hard on them down the stretch, which I thought was really good for us,” Brownell said. “Our guys really competed these last four games and we have played really good defensively. I thought that has been a big factor for us to have some success here the last few weeks.”
Though Skara did not play as well offensively, he did make his only field goal of the game with 3:05 to play when he hit a step-back three from the left corner for a 53-44 lead. That followed a Reed three a little earlier that gave the Tigers a six-point lead at the time.
Reed, who finished the game with 15 points, then made a jump shot from just inside the arc above the foul line to basically clinch the Tigers’ win. That gave the Tigers a 55-48 lead with 1:07 to play.
Besides Mitchell’s 22 points, Clemson’s defense was basically the story of the game, holding the Hokies to 28.3 percent shooting, including 26.3 from three-point range. Virginia Tech (18-5, 7-4 ACC) came into the game as one of the best shooting teams in the ACC.
Mitchell led the Tigers with 18 first half points, including a career-high five three-pointers. He was 6-of-7 overall in the opening half.
After Virginia Tech took a 5-0 lead early on, Clemson went on a 14-0 run. Mitchell scored 12 straight points during the run.
The first half was full of runs. The Hokies answered Clemson’s run with an 8-0 run of their own only to see the Tigers go on an 8-1 run to take a 31-23 lead with 3:37 to play following an Aamir Simms three-pointer.
The Tigers led 33-29 at the break.
Mitchell finished the afternoon 7-of-14 from the field and 5-of-9 from behind the arc.
Clemson will play at Miami on Wednesday in Corals Gable, Fla. Tip is set for 7 p.m.