Virginia Tech defeated Clemson 70-58 in their final home game of the season on Wednesday night. The Hokies improved to 16-14 overall and 7-12 in ACC play. The Tigers dropped to 15-14 and 9-10.
The lead changed hands 11 times over the course of the game, though generally speaking the Hokies were in control with the exception of the start of both halves. Clemson jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the first half before the Hokies took control, and Tech took a 30-25 lead into the halftime intermission. The Tigers then started the second half on 10-4 run to take a 35-34 lead before Tech then regained control.
The lead changed hands eight times in less than three minutes between the 16:13 mark and the 13:36 mark of the second half. With Tech trailing 42-41, Jalen Cone drilled a three-pointer on an assist from Nahiem Alleyne to put the Hokies up 44-42. They would never trail again, extending their lead to as many as 17 points (70-53) with 2:37 remaining before Mike Young called off the dogs. Clemson closed the game on a 5-0 run, but still fell well short.
“This is one of our poorer performances of the season,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “Again, I think Virginia Tech had a lot to do with it. They played outstanding, confident, great pace, ran their stuff well, made shots, the energy of the crowd helped, but I’m disappointed in the way we played and coached today.”
Clemson came into the game ranked No. 233 nationally in three-point percentage, and the Tech gameplan was to keep them out of the paint. The Tigers made them pay early by draining their first three outside jumpers. However, their shooting talent began to tell as the game moved along, and they finished just 9-of-35 (25.7%) from the outside. They were just 6-of-32 after their hot 3-of-3 start.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech was 26-of-48 from the field, and that mark of 54.2% was the best shooting performance a Clemson opponent has had all season. The Hokies were also 12-of-26 (46.2%) from three-point range. At halftime Tech had just four assists to a whopping 12 turnovers, but they finished the game with 17 assists and 16 turnovers. At one point in the second half, they had racked up 10 assists to only one turnover. Taking care of the basketball in the second half was one of the key factors in their double-digit victory.
“To turn the ball over 12 times in the first half, I couldn’t believe that statistic, and we were still up five,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said.
Junior forward PJ Horne led the Hokies with 17 points, and he was 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range. The last time he led Tech in scoring was the Hokies’ last victory when he had 18 points against Pitt. He also had a career-high five steals. Tyrece Radford was his usual efficient self with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists. Hunter Cattoor had nine points off the bench, while Isaiah Wilkins finished with eight points to round out a well-balanced scoring attack. Wabissa Bede led the team with five assists.
“When that thing goes in the basket the game is a heck of a lot easier,” Young said. “PJ Horne making four [3s], Jalen Cone has just been banging out shots night in, night out, Nahiem Alleyne hit one in the first half on a nice extra pass from Landers Nolley. We had that nice distribution, and here comes Tyrece Radford slicing to the basket, he scored 16. When PJ Horne has the ability to step out and make multiple 3s, that makes us tricky to guard.”
Cattoor in particular was big off the bench, especially when he scored five straight points in a key second half run. First he threw down a dunk on a breakaway off a turnover, and then he hit a three-pointer in his own personal mini-run.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Saturday for the final regular season game of the season at Notre Dame. Tipoff is scheduled for 2pm, and the game will be televised by The ACC Network.
Selected Game Notes From Virginia Tech
Tech finishes with a home record of 12-6 during the regular season.
The Hokies record their first season sweep of the season over a team and their second-ever over Clemson (2017).
The Hokies bench continues their production, scoring 23 points to mark the 20th game this season that the bench has scored over 20 points.
Tech recorded eight steals, which is the seventh time this season that the Hokies have had eight or more steals.