No. 11 Virginia Tech fell to Clemson 59-51 in Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies dropped to 18-5 overall and 7-4 in the ACC, while suffering their first two-game losing streak of the season. The Tigers improved to 15-8 overall and 5-5 in conference play to put themselves squarely on the bubble. Clemson has now won four games in a row.
Virginia Tech’s offense struggled again with Justin Robinson missing his third consecutive game with a foot injury. Virginia Tech was facing a Clemson team that ranked No. 21 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive metric coming into the game. The Tigers held Georgia Tech to 42 points and Wake Forest to 37 points in their two most recent games, and missing the school’s all-time leader in assists, the Hokies also had a tough go of it on the road.
Tech was just 15-of-53 (28.3%) from the field and only 5-of-19 (26.3%) from three-point range as they struggled to find rhythm in their offense with Robinson out. They were 16-of-17 (94.1%) from the free throw line, but that wasn’t enough. Clemson was hardly stellar offensively, failing to break 60 points and shooting just 41.3% from the field, but it was enough to knock off the punchless Hokies.
Kerry Blackshear led Tech with 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and he also had seven rebounds, two steals and a block. However, he and Ty Outlaw (10 points, 3-of-5) were the only Tech players to shoot over 50% from the field, and Blackshear fouled out after just 26 minutes of playing time. Still adjusting to the point guard role, Nickeil Alexander-Walker had 13 points, but he was only 3-of-14 from the field. He had no assists and five turnovers. Ahmed Hill was 3-of-11 from the field, while Wabissa Bede was 0-of-7.
The Hokies also got relatively little production from their very short bench. Isaiah Wilkins did not score in 14 minutes, going 0-of-5, while fellow freshman guard Jonathan Kabongo had three points in eight minutes. Tech did a better job protecting the ball in this game, committing just 11 turnovers, including only three in the first half, but they struggled to get decent shots in their halfcourt offense, and when they did they usually missed them.
Tech trailed 33-29 at halftime, and they stayed in the game for the entirety of the second half. The Tigers jumped up by six points after their first possession of the second half, but the Hokies then cut the lead to three points on five occasions in the final 20 minutes, and to one point on one occasion. They stayed in the game by playing quality defense, as they’ve done for most of the season, but it wasn’t enough to overcome their lack of firepower on the offensive end, particularly against a team as good as Clemson is defensively.
Since losing Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech has averaged just 54 points per game. In the eight ACC games they played with Robinson, they averaged 74.8 points per game.
Despite the setback, the Hokies have two very winnable games coming up. They host Georgia Tech (11-12, 3-7) in Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday, and then travel to Pitt (12-11, 2-8) next Saturday. Tipoff for the Georgia Tech game is set for 8pm, and the game will be televised by Raycom. Check this list of local affiliates for the broadcast in your area.