Hokies Nip Tigers in Overtime Thriller 75-74

Virginia Tech traveled to Clemson on Wednesday night and came away with a tough 75-74 overtime victory over the Tigers, winning the game in dramatic fashion. The Hokies trailed for the majority of the game, missed a ton of free throws down the stretch and had to withstand two potential game-winning field goal attempts by Clemson at the end to hang on for the victory. Virginia Tech (13-10, 3-7) has now won three of their last four games. Each of their last three games has been decided by one point. Clemson (14-9, 3-7) has lost four in a row and six of their last seven.

Trailing late in the second half, the Hokies made good use of their fouls to extend the game. Akin Akinbala, a 55.1% free throw shooter, hit two free throws with 31 seconds remaining to put the Tigers up 64-60. On the ensuing Tech possession, Jamon Gordon, who finished with 21 points, drove the lane and hit a layup, cutting the lead to two points with 24 seconds left on the clock. The Hokies then fouled Shawan Robinsin, the ACC’s best free throw shooter at 93.3%. Robinson drilled both foul shots to extend the lead back to four, but another Jamon Gordon layup made the score 66-64 with 17 seconds left.

Clemson inbounded the ball to Cliff Hammonds, a 43% free throw shooter, and he was promptly fouled by Gordon. Hammonds missed the first shot, but hit the second to put Clemson up 67-64. The Hokies took possession, and Zabian Dowdell drilled a three-pointer to tie the game with eight seconds left. Dowdell’s three-pointer capped an impressive 19 point performance by the junior guard. Clemson was unable to get off a final shot because of great defense by Jamon Gordon and Deron Washington, and the game went into overtime.

Deron Washington took control of overtime early. He scored on a layup on Tech’s first possession, and after Cliff Hammonds answered with a jumpshot, Washington hit a three-pointer to give Virginia Tech a 72-69 lead. Jamon Gordon was fouled on Virginia Tech’s next possession, and he hit one of his two free throw attempts. It was the only free throw the Hokies would hit in overtime, as they nearly gave the game away by shooting 1-of-7 from the charity stripe in the overtime period. Gordon’s free throw put Tech up 73-69.

But Clemson refused to go away quietly. Shawan Robinson hit two consecutive jumpers, one a three-pointer, and Clemson found themselves up 74-73 with 1:29 remaining. On Tech’s next possession, Coleman Collins went to the line for two free throws, and missed both. But Tech’s Markus Sailes came away with the offensive rebound and got the ball to Zabian Dowdell, who nailed a jumper to put Tech up 75-74 with a minute left.

After Dowdell’s jumper, the Hokies went on to miss three more free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one. Clemson missed four shots in the final 39 seconds of overtime, including one by Cliff Hammonds with five seconds remaining, and another by Shawan Robinson at the buzzer following an offensive rebound.

Virginia Tech got large contributions from four of their five starters. Leading the way was Gordon, who had 21 points and 16 rebounds, an amazing stat for a 6-3 guard. He has been a rebounding machine lately, collecting 14 boards against Wake Forest and six against both Georgia Tech and Boston College. Gordon also had four steals and four assists to cap an outstanding performance.

The other member of the backcourt, Zabian Dowdell, also had a huge game. Dowdell scored 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range. He also led the team in assists (6) and steals (5). He hit the shot to tie the game at the end of regulation, and later in overtime made the eventual game-winning basket.

Coleman Collins and Deron Washington also had good games for the Hokies. Collins scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He also pulled down four rebounds, recorded four steals and dished out two assists. Washington scored 12 points, all of which came in the second half and overtime. He also pulled down four rebounds, had three steals and recorded two assists.

The Hokies’ win was surprising because Clemson had an outstanding shooting game. The Tigers rank last in the ACC in conference games in every shooting statistic. They came into the game shooting 39.6% from the field, 25.8% from three-point range and 58.8% from the free throw line. On Wednesday night the Tigers shot 48.1% from the field, 40.9% from three-point range and 86.7% from the charity stripe.

Virginia Tech overcame Clemson’s hot-shooting night by shooting the ball well themselves and forcing a lot of turnovers. The Hokies shot 50.8% from the field and 45.5% from three-point range. However they shot just 52.6% from the free throw line, hitting 10-of-19 attempts. This nearly handed the game back to Clemson in the overtime period. The Tigers did shoot for a high percentage, but Tech made up for this by forcing 25 turnovers, including a whopping 21 steals. The Hokies also played better defense in the second half, holding Clemson to just 42.9% from the field and 30% from three-point range.

The Hokies did come up on the losing end of the rebounding war. The Tigers outrebounded Virginia Tech 35-29. Jamon Gordon came up with 16 of Tech’s 29 rebounds, three of their seven offensive rebounds and 13 of their 22 defensive rebounds.

The drama of this game did not begin in the second half. It began late in the first half when the Hokies found themselves trailing 30-18 at the 5:31 mark. Virginia Tech had to go on a run or risk getting blown out, and that’s exactly what they did. The Hokies went on a 14-2 run to tie the game at 32 with 1:15 left in the half. Cliff Hammonds later hit a shot to put the Tigers up 34-32.

With just seconds remaining in the half, Coleman Collins grabbed a rebound and raced up court, preparing to take a last second shot. But Clemson’s K.C. Rivers knocked the ball away from Collins and Hammonds picked up the loose ball. He fired up a shot from approximately 30 feet away from the basket as the buzzer sounded, and the shot went down. Virginia Tech had a lot of momentum heading into halftime, but lost it on the Clemson buzzer-beater, and went into the locker-room trailing 37-32.

The second half was nip and tuck, with the Tigers threatening to pull away on several occasions. But the Hokies had enough magic in them to rally in the last 30 seconds of regulation and force overtime, and then to eventually win the game in overtime.

Virginia Tech returns to action this Saturday when they travel to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers. Tip-off is scheduled for 8pm and the game will be televised by Jefferson Pilot/Raycom. Check your local listings.