Tigers open season on sour note

Tigers open season on sour note

Basketball

Tigers open season on sour note

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If it wasn’t for Virginia Tech’s Landers Nolley, Clemson’s season-opener Tuesday at Littlejohn Coliseum might have been a good one.

However, Lander’s game-high 30 points could not be removed from the score sheet as the redshirt freshman single-handedly took the Tigers down, 67-60, in Clemson’s first ACC basketball game to open a season since 1966.

“I knew he was good. Now what you did not know, he is a redshirt freshman, he has great poise,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said afterward. “He never got sped up. There are things we learned about him tonight from playing him, but he is really talented.

“He made some tough shots, too. He made some shots where we made mistakes and then he made some shots where he is a great player. He is 6-foot-7 and he shoots it up here and he just shoots over the top of you.”

The Tigers (0-1, 0-1 ACC) were their own worst enemy down the stretch as they were unable to make many baskets and free throws. After shooting 44 percent from the field in the opening half, Clemson cooled off and were just 7-29 from the field in the second half. It made just 8-14 free throws and was 1-13 from behind the three-point line.

“I thought we played hard and we executed well offensively in the first half and then in the second half we obviously panicked, a little bit. I don’t know how many layups we missed. I am anxious to see,” Brownell said. “Obviously, there a lot of missed free throws. We did not turn the ball over a lot. We had a couple of bad turnovers. We just looked a little nervous and a little unsure of ourselves.”

The Hokies (1-0, 1-0 ACC) weren’t much better in the second half, but they were a little better, especially at the foul line where they connected on 14-18 foul shots in the last 20 minutes. They shot just 32 percent from the field in the second half after shooting 44 percent in the first 30.

Nolley had 18 of his 30 points in the first half. He was 12-23 from the field overall and 4-8 from behind the arc.

Clemson was led by John Newman’s 15 points, while Aamir Simms added 12 points and had 15 rebounds. Al-Amir Dawes dropped in 11 points and had 6 rebounds.

Newman tied the game with 1:11 to go with two free throws, but Virginia Tech quickly took the lead again after the Hokies broke Clemson’s press and P.J. Horne dunked the ball at the other end. Simms fouled Horne uncharacteristically on the play, allowing the forward to complete a three-point play for a 60-57 lead with 1:03 to go.

After a Clemson miss Tyrece Radford made a layup to extend the lead to five, 62-57, with 39 seconds to play.

The Tigers seemed out of it until Simms made a diving rebound to keep the ball in bounds, which led to a Newman layup to cut the Tech lead to 55-53 with 2:32 to play in the game.

Clemson had missed seven straight shots during a 6:45 stretch in the second half. At one point they were 1-12 from the field.

Simms ended the scoring drought with a jump shot from the right side, giving the Tigers a 50-49 lead with 6:19 to play in the game.

Clemson will not have time to sulk in the loss. It will host Presbyterian on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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