Virginia Tech lost their chance to tie for the ACC regular season championship and earn the #1 seed in the ACC tournament when they were defeated by Clemson 75-74 in Blacksburg on Sunday afternoon. The Hokies drop to 20-10 overall and 10-6 in ACC play, and are still assured a first round bye in the ACC tournament. Clemson improves to 21-9 and 7-9 in conference play.
The Hokies got off to a terrible start, and although they rallied to take the lead in the second half, they could never manage to get a stop defensively. The Hokies outrebounded Clemson 29-26, but failed to secure a key rebound down the stretch that ultimately cost them a chance to win the game.
Leading 75-74, Clemson’s Vernon Hamilton was fouled and went to the free throw line with 13 seconds remaining. He missed the front end of the one-and-one, and the teams scrambled for the loose ball. Hamilton came up with the ball and fell to the ground, where he appeared to roll over. Some players on the court stopped moving after Hamilton rolled over, assuming a travel would be called. Even the clock stopped momentarily.
However, a travel was not called, and Hamilton got the ball to Cliff Hammonds, who was fouled with 3.7 seconds left. After consulting the replay, the officials reset the game clock to 1.7 seconds to make up for the clock stopping during the play. Hammonds missed both free throws and the Hokies rebounded and quickly called timeout with 1.5 seconds left.
Deron Washington tried a hail mary pass to the other end of the court, but it was deflected by Clemson and the ball rolled harmlessly out of bounds, ending both the game and Tech’s chances of earning the #1 seed in Tampa.
Zabian Dowdell scored 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting in his last home game as a Hokie. He also pulled down five rebounds, dished out two assists and had two steals in 39 minutes of action. Unfortunately Dowdell had an uncharacteristic seven turnovers, six of which came in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Jamon Gordon had a very good performance in his final home game. The senior guard finished with 14 points in 7-of-12 shooting. He also had eight assists and four steals. Deron Washington finished with 11 points and six rebounds, and A.D. Vassallo added 10 points.
The Hokies got off to a terrible start, and found themselves trailing 26-11 with 10:08 remaining in the first half. Not willing to go down easily, Tech rallied and trailed just 35-32 at halftime. Dowdell played a big part in the comeback, scoring 11 consecutive Virginia Tech points, and 15 of 17 total points, between the 10:08 mark and the 1:41 mark.
The Hokies played great offensively in the second half, but Clemson always had an answer. Virginia Tech scored on seven of their first eight possessions of the second half, but never took the lead during that run, as each of their baskets was answered on the other end by Clemson.
With 5:47 remaining, the Hokies finally took the lead 66-65 on a layup by Zabian Dowdell, but Clemson quickly countered on their next possession with a jumper by Cliff Hammonds, and then a three-pointer by Hammonds to push their lead out to 70-66. At that point, Tech went on a 6-0 run that gave them a 72-70 lead 2:22 remaining, forcing Clemson coach Oliver Purnell to call a timeout.
The timeout worked, with K.C. Rivers knocking down a three-pointer to give the Tigers a 73-72 lead. The Hokies took the lead one last time when Dowdell hit a jumper with 44 seconds left to make the score 74-73, but yet again, Clemson answered. It was Rivers yet again with another jumper, and the Tigers took a 75-74 lead with 18 seconds left, and they held on for the win.
The Hokies out-shot Clemson 56.5% to 50.9%, out-shot them from the free throw line 79.2% to 47.4%, and outrebounded them 29-26. It was Clemson’s three-point shooting that won the day. The Tigers entered the game shooting a conference worst 32% from the outside in ACC play, but they nailed 10-of-19 three-pointers against Tech. The Hokies were 3-of-8 from the outside.
The Hokies will now travel to Tampa where they will play in the ACC tournament. They will play on Friday, but game time and opponent have not been decided. Stay tuned to TSL for updated ACC tournament information.