With their backs against the wall, Virginia Tech came up with a huge 80-77 victory at #12 Clemson on Wednesday night. The win puts the Hokies back into the NCAA tournament picture. Tech moved to 17-10 overall, with a 7-6 mark in ACC play. Clemson dropped to 22-5 and 8-5 on the season.
Malcolm Delaney had his second huge game of the season against Clemson. After scoring 37 points in the first meeting, Delaney dropped 26 on the Tigers on Wednesday night. He was 8-of-19 from the field, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. He also dished out six assists and had just one turnover in 38 minutes.
A.D. Vassallo added 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting. He wad 4-of-9 from three-point range. He also chipped in with five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The hero of the game was arguably Hank Thorns. Thorns started because the Hokies needed two true guards to break Clemson’s press, and he responded. He finished with 10 points, four assists and four steals in 30 minutes of action. He was 3-of-4 from the field, and he connected on his only three-point attempt of the night.
The ability of Thorns and Delaney to break Clemson’s press was the key to victory. The Hokies had just 12 turnovers, while the Tigers had 15. Tech also had 18 assists in the game, with Thorns and Delaney combining for 10 of them.
Along with Hank Thorns, Tech got good production from Dorenzo Hudson. He scored six points, hitting his only two field goals of the night, both three-pointers. As a team, the Hokies were 11-of-19 (57.9%) from downtown. Clemson was 7-of-20 (35%).
Things didn’t look good early, with Clemson jumping out to a 16-9 lead at the 14:12 mark on a breakaway dunk by Jerai Grant. Tech climbed back in it by going on an 9-0 run that was capped by an A.D. Vassallo jumper in the lane with 11:26 remaining in the first half.
The game was close for the remainder of the half, with neither team able to lead by more than five points. Clemson went into the halftime intermission with a 38-35 lead, and the game was wide open for anyone to win.
Tech got off to a great start in the second half. Malcolm Delaney hit two three-pointers in the first 1:30 of the half, and a Hank Thorns layup put the Hokies up 43-42 with 18:13 left in the game. Clemson didn’t go away, and two Terrence Oglesby free throws put the Tigers up 59-58 at the 12 minute mark. However, that was their last lead of the game.
Hank Thorns responded to Oglesby’s free throws by scoring five straight points. First he hit a three-pointer to put the Hokies up 61-59, and then he scored on a layup in transition to put Tech up by four points. Clemson was able to tie the game at 68 on a three-pointer by Oglesby with 7:08 left, but they could never regain the lead.
Like all other games in the Tech-Clemson series, the game came down to the last shot. Trevor Booker scored on a breakaway layup with 27 seconds remaining to pull his team within one. A.D. Vassallo went to the free throw line with 14 seconds left, with his team leading 78-77. Vassallo calmly knocked down both free throws, and Clemson had the ball for the last shot, trailing 80-77.
The Hokies played terrific defense on Clemson’s last possession. Demontez Stitt was guarded closely by Terrell Bell, and his lean-in three-pointer didn’t even draw iron. The Hokies grabbed the rebound, and the buzzer sounded.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Saturday afternoon, when they host Duke in Cassell Coliseum. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30pm, and the game will be televised by ABC.