Virginia Tech defeated Clemson 60-57 in front of a sold out Cassell Coliseum crowd on Saturday afternoon. The Hokies improved to 13-11 overall and 5-6 in the ACC with the win, while the Tigers dropped to 14-9 and 7-4.
Zach LeDay led the Hokies with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. However, his most impressive play will not show up in his statistics. With just over eight minutes remaining and Tech leading 44-36, Zach LeDay put his body on the line by laying out completely for a loose ball near halfcourt. He beat Clemson to the basketball, got it to Seth Allen, who then found Jalen Hudson under the basket for a wide open layup.
That play put the Hokies up 46-36 with 8:08 remaining, and it seemed as if they would coast to a relatively easy win. However, as it turned out, that play was the most critical play of the day.
“It was the play of the game,” Buzz Williams said. “The first guy to the floor was Zach.”
Three other Tech players scored in double figures. Jalen Hudson had 13, including a highlight reel dunk. Justin Bibbs scored 12 points, while Seth Allen added 10. Kerry Blackshear finished with six points and six rebounds. Though Devin Wilson didn’t score in his 28 minutes, he had four assists and no turnovers, and he did a terrific job defensively on All-ACC forward Jaron Blossomgame, who had just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. Blossomgame also had five turnovers.
As usual, there was drama in a Virginia Tech basketball game. Zach LeDay made two free throws with 7:33 remaining to make the score 48-36 Hokies. However, Clemson switched to a 2-3 zone and went on a big run, eventually storming back to take a 52-51 lead on a three-pointer by Jordan Roper with 2:43 left. It appeared the Hokies were going to let another lead slip through their fingers in the final moments.
However, two straight layups by Kerry Blackshear and Zach LeDay put Tech back out in front 55-52, and they never trailed again. Clemson did have a chance to tie the game with 23 seconds remaining, but Blossomgame’s free throw was off. LeDay made five of six free throw attempts over the final 29 seconds, and scored Tech’s final seven points of the game.
Clemson outrebounded Tech 39-35, but the Hokies committed just eight turnovers. The lack of turnovers and free throw shooting (14 of 16 for 87.5%) was instrumental in the victory.
Virginia Tech returns to action on Tuesday night when they travel to Charlottesville for a rematch with UVA. Tipoff is scheduled for 8pm, and the game can be seen on The ACC Network.
Buzz Williams Postgame Quotes
On changes to the starting lineup
“I think Zach played 34 minutes. He played just as many minutes at the five as he did at the four, which is unheard of, which is the same thing that we did at Syracuse. For whatever reason, I think our team is comfortable playing small. When Jalen and Zach, Jalen got two fouls at Syracuse in a minute and a half and got two fouls the previous game in the first three and a half minutes, then we have no options. I don’t think that we’re good enough to have guys that are frozen out on the bench because of foul trouble. I thought if we could buy some minutes to start the game it would allow us the versatility we need and it worked out that way.”
On the atmosphere in Cassell Coliseum
“I’m very appreciative, that would be the first thing I would say … I’m not a very good marketer, particularly this time of the season, but I think it’s an important brick, just like all the other things we’re trying to accomplish. All of those people, students, alumni, season ticket holders, have a role in what we’re trying to do. As we try to grow the roster, as we try to grow the teams, we have to continue to grow the consistent support that you need. So as all of it’s growing, that is included … I understand. The last three home games, how things have blossomed, is what we need. It’s turning into a really hard place to play and I don’t know that’s been the case in a long time.”
On Zach LeDay
“Zach has some emotional issues, they’re the same emotional issues I struggle with so we get along real well. I don’t know that perfectionism is the right word but I think that he has an insatiable desire to be the best that he could be. He is of the belief, raised by a single parent mom who raised three boys and has had the same job for 34 years, he believes that there are things that he can control and one of those things is his work ethic. He was not recruited at a really high level as a high school player and you know his numbers upon his arrival here … everybody thought he wasn’t very good. I think there’s an edge, coupled with his work ethic, and the combination of that is really strong.”
On LeDay’s hustle play
“Play of the game. It’s the play of the game. I’m on the floor trying to call a time out and Zach’s ten fingers, ten toes in the air for a loose ball, a fifty-fifty ball. I don’t want Seth to do something dumb, I’m trying to protect him. And [Zach] makes an incredibly smart play for an uncontested layup. It was the play of the game. The first guy to the floor was Zach.”
On the character of this team
“I would say the first characteristic is they’re good people that were raised by very strong parents. I would say the second thing is they play for one another and you can see the relationship they have off the floor by watching them play on the floor … the third thing I would say is they play incredibly hard is because they believe what we’re trying to do is built on the right things. The fourth thing I would say is they’re not scared.”
Brad Brownell’s Postgame Quotes
“I congratulate Buzz, his staff, and players; I thought those guys played very well tonight. It wasn’t a pretty game in a lot of ways. Both teams’ defenses were better than their offenses. We had a bad stretch early in the second half where we just didn’t play well and struggled to score. They pulled away. Our guys fought hard and put ourselves in a position to have a free throw to tie. We just didn’t play well enough to beat a Virginia Tech team that was playing at a better level.”
“We had a little double-screen action that we tried to run. They switched a lot of things that made it hard for us to run it, but we probably dribbled on top of the play too much.”
“Both teams are good defensively. Today, they did a good job on us. They guarded us well and there was a lot of energy in the building. They were inspired. I like to think that we played reasonably well and did some decent things. They missed some open shots – at one time, I told our players that we were up a couple [of points], but I didn’t think we were playing as well as they were playing… I don’t think we played at a high level today for very long.”
Game Notes from Virginia Tech
Justin Robinson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. each earned their first career ACC starts.
Zach LeDay scored 19 points. This is his 21st game in double figures this season and his 10th consecutive game in double figures.
LeDay record his eighth double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds. That is his first against ACC competition and his first since 10 points and 11 rebounds against St. Joseph’s at the Barclays Center on Dec. 22.
Justin Bibbs scored 12 points. This is his 15th game of the season in double figures and his fourth consecutive.
Seth Allen scored 10 points. This is his 20th game of the season in double figures and his seventh consecutive.
Jalen Hudson scored 13 points. That is his seventh game in double figures this season.
The Hokies are now 5-6 in the ACC. This is the first time the Hokies have won five ACC games since the 2010-11 season, when Tech was 9-7 in league play.
The Hokies bench outscored the Clemson bench, 32-0.
Clemson’s Landry Nnoko had eight blocked shots. That ties the Virginia Tech record for most individual blocked shots against the Hokies. Four other players also have had eight blocks against Tech.
The Hokies now lead the all-time series, 16-15. In the 31 games, the total point differential is 23 points.