Hokies Lose Big Lead, Fall to Clemson in Cassell

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Virginia Tech blew a 15-point second half lead and lost a golden opportunity for another Top 50 RPI win in an 86-82 home loss to #12 Clemson on Thursday night. The Tigers put a huge run on the Hokies in the second half, and managed to hold on for a big road win. The loss dropped Tech to 14-6 overall and 4-2 in the ACC. Clemson improved to 18-2 overall and 4-2 in conference play.

Despite the best efforts of Malcolm Delaney, the Hokies couldn’t pull it out. For the second game in a row, Delaney had a career night. He dropped 37 points on the Tigers, 22 of which came in the first half, including a half court buzzer-beater just before halftime. Delaney was 11-of-17 from the field, including 6-of-10 from three-point range. He was also 9-of-10 from the free throw line.

The Hokies got 13 points and nine rebounds from Jeff Allen, but didn’t get much from A.D. Vassallo. Vassallo scored just 10 points, all of which came in the first half. He was 0-of-3 from the field in the second half, and reacted unfavorably when Seth Greenberg took him out of the game with just over five minutes left. Vassallo re-entered the game after spending a minute on the bench, but he was ineffective down the stretch.

Virginia Tech annihilated Clemson’s heralded full-court press in the first half. The Hokies scored 53 points in the first half and held a nine-point halftime lead. The Tigers backed out of the press in the second half, which is rare for an Oliver Purnell team.

Not only were the Hokies scoring against the press, but they didn’t turn the ball over and give Clemson any easy baskets. Tech outscored the Tigers 13-0 in fast break points, and beat the press for numerous dunks and three-pointers in the first half.

Hank Thorns played the point guard spot for 12 minutes in the first half, and had four assists and no turnovers. However, when Clemson abandoned their press in the second half, Thorns played just six minutes. He finished the game with five assists and just one turnover.

Despite only scoring 29 points in the second half, this game was lost because the Hokies couldn’t fight through Clemson’s high ball screens. K.C. Rivers scored 29 points, and he was 7-of-10 from three-point range. He had a similar game two years ago in Cassell Coliseum when he scored 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the arc. As a team, Clemson was 14-of-25 (56%) from three-point range, despite going just 29-of-67 (43.3%) from the field overall.

The Hokies played terrific offensively in the first half. They shot 20-of-33 (60.6%) from the field and led by as many as 20 points in the first 20 minutes. A driving dunk by A.D. Vassallo with 4:43 remaining in the first half made the score 45-31 Hokies, and it didn’t appear that anything could hold Tech back from jumping out to a 5-1 start in conference play.

However, Clemson put a run on the Hokies and cut their lead to 50-44 with just seconds remaining in the half. Malcolm Delaney, who has averaged 29 points per game over the last three contests, came up with something Tech is used to seeing from their opponents. Delaney drained a half court shot to end the half, sending the Hokies into the intermission with a 53-44 lead.

Virginia Tech came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, extending their lead to 63-48 on a Malcolm Delaney layup with 16:40 in the game. The Hokies were rolling, and it didn’t look like anyone could stop them.

However, a huge Clemson run did just that. The Tigers went on an 18-0 run that was capped by two free throws by Trevor Booker to take a 66-63 lead with 10:18 left in the game. The Hokies were lost in their half court offense, and gave up three critical three-pointers during the run.

Clemson went on to extend their lead to six points when K.C. Rivers nailed a three-pointer with 7:39 remaining to make the score 72-66 with 7:39 left in the game. However, the Hokies had one last run in them.

Jeff Allen and Malcolm Delaney sparked a 13-4 run that gave Tech a 79-76 lead with 3:25 left in the game. With the game tied at 74, Jeff Allen came up with a loose ball near midcourt and broke away for a huge dunk to put the Hokies up by two. After Clemson tied the game at 76, Delaney drained a huge three-pointer to put Tech back up 79-76.

That’s when the wheels fell off for the Hokies, who managed to score just three points for the remainder of the game. Clemson backup wing David Potter, who averaged just 5.2 points per game heading into this contest, scored six of Clemson’s final eight points. With 2:09 remaining he scored on a driving layup, and with 1:25 left he came off a screen to hit a big three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Tigers an 83-80 lead.

Tech cut it to 83-82 on a layup off a backdoor cut by Dorenzo Hudson with 1:10 remaining, but K.C. Rivers took the margin back to three-points when he hit a jump shot with 48 seconds left in the game. The Tigers were able to hold the Hokies scoreless the remainder of the way and held on for the 86-82 win.

Virginia Tech returns to action on Saturday night, when they travel to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College. Tip-off is scheduled for 8pm, and the game will be televised by Raycom. Check your local listings.

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