Shelton Mitchell scored 22 points with a career-best five 3-pointers and Clemson outlasted No. 11 Virginia Tech 59-51 on Saturday for the Tigers’ fourth straight victory.
The Hokies (18-5, 7-4 ACC) made just one field goal in the final 8:33 in losing consecutive games for the first time this season.
The Tigers (15-8, 5-5) were ranked when the season began but were written off by many when they opened ACC play at 1-5. Clemson is finally looking like the team that surprised many when it reached the NCAA Tournament’s round of 16 last March.
Virginia Tech had its chances and was down just 41-40 after Kerry Blackshear Jr.’s basket with 12:29 to go. But Clemson’s Marcquise Reed and Hunter Tyson followed with 3-pointers to build the lead. Blackshear hit two foul shots make it 47-44, but that was as close as the Hokies would get.
Virginia Tech missed the next eight shots, a string finally broken by Ty Outlaw’s 3 with 12.5 seconds. By then, Clemson had a double-digit lead and the crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum was poised for a celebration.
Reed finished with 15 points, 10 in the second half. Elijah Thomas had seven of Clemson’s 12 blocks, a total that tied for the best showing by the Tigers in coach Brad Brownell’s nine seasons.
Blackshear had 17 points to lead Virginia Tech before fouling out in the final minutes. The Hokies’ leading scorer, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, had 13 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Few teams play defense as hard as Virginia Tech. Clemson is one of them. The Tigers came in second in the ACC in allowing fewer than 63 points a game during conference play, just ahead of Virginia Tech’s average of 65.8.
The opening half was a nonstop scrum of defensive activity, with players switching, swarming and deflecting passes and shots. The Hokies had five first-half steals while Clemson blocked seven shots in the period. Alexander-Walker struggled to find room to shoot, going 3 of 11 from the field in the first 20 minutes.
The difference early was Mitchell’s long-range shooting. The senior’s five 3s all came in the first half and included four-point play that put Clemson ahead for good.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies have been out of sync without injured point guard Justin Robinson, who missed his third straight game — two of them losses. Virginia Tech needs to rediscover its balance.
Clemson: The Tigers are on the move after an early struggle in the ACC. Clemson is leaning heavily on its four seniors, Mitchell, Reed, Thomas and David Skara. The four combined for 46 of the team’s 59 points.
Virginia Tech returns home to play Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
Clemson goes to Miami on Wednesday night.