Virginia Tech knocked off No. 24 Clemson 66-60 at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.
The Tigers fought back from a 16-point deficit in in the second half but came up short in a physical game.
Foul trouble for the Tigers made the difference in the end, they finished the game with 24 fouls and the Hokies converted on 25-of-31 free throws including shooting 85-percent from the charity stripe in the second half.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell wanted his team to play aggressive defense against the Hokies but credited their ability to draw fouls as the difference in the game.
“We’re trying to practice without fouling in those situations and we hope that turnovers and blowing up timing and execution of their plays supersedes a few extra free throws, tonight that wasn’t the case,” Brownell said. “Tonight, their ability to draw fouls, get to the free throw line and then make them was the biggest factor.”
Clemson (5-1, 0-1 ACC) struggled to shoot the basketball for most of the first half without a basket for the first 4:41 of the contest but kept the game within reach at the halftime buzzer. Virginia Tech jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and maintained control for much of the first half as the Tigers struggled to score the basketball.
The Tigers finished the first half 9-for-27 shooting from the field good for 33.3-percent and missed their first six three pointers. Clyde Trapp ended the three-point shooting lull with the first with 4:30 to play in the first half and Al-Amir Dawes followed it with three buckets behind the arch in the waning minutes of the first half.
The sophomore guard led the way for the Tigers with 18 points on 6-14 shooting including 5-11 from three-point range. Senior forward Aamir Simms added 15 points with big play down the stretch.
Brownell credited Simms and Dawes for making big shots but wished the Tigers had more production from the rest of the team.
“We just didn’t have a lot of guys play well,” Brownell said. “Dawes obviously played really well and kept us in it, Aamir played well he didn’t play great but did a lot of good things but we didn’t have much beyond that.”
Clemson took its first lead 24-23 on three-point shot from Dawes with 2:37 to play in the first half. But the Hokies closed out the half with a 9-3 run to maintain a 32-27 halftime lead.
The Tigers got into foul trouble early with 11 first half fouls including two for Aamir Simms, Alex Hemenway and John Newman and three for P.J. Hall.
Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-0 ACC) stormed out of the gate in the second half and jumped out to a 16-point lead after an 11-0 run to take a 45-29 advantage with 6:01 to play in the game.
Clemson charged back and outscored its opponent 31-21 down the stretch. Aamir Simms cut the Hokie lead to 62-60 with 25 seconds left in the game but Virginia Tech closed down the game on the foul line to win the game 66-60.
Clemson returns to action when it hosts Morehead State on Dec. 22 at Littlejohn Coliseum after its matchup with South Carolina was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns in the Gamecock basketball program.