Hokies win game at free throw line

by - Senior Writer -

Clemson’s game Saturday night looked more like it was played in Chapel Hill or Durham rather than Blacksburg, Va.

The Virginia Tech Hokies took advantage of 44 free throw attempts and 30 points by Malcom Delaney as they rolled over Clemson 70-69 in a pivotal ACC matchup at Cassell Coliseum, with Delaney going 20-of-23 at the foul line for Tech (18-4, 5-3 ACC), which improved to 12-0 at home. Jeff Allen added 13 points and six boards, while Terrell Bell chipped in with 10 points.

Jerai Grant led Clemson (16-7, 4-5) in defeat with a double-double of 11 points and 15 boards. Tanner Smith and David Potter each finished with 11 points as well and Andre Young had 10 in the losing effort.

Delaney’s free throws were the most attempts and makes by a Clemson opponent since 1956, by North Carolina’s Lenny Rosenbluth. Overall, the Hokies were 38-of-46 from the line, while Clemson shot just 21 foul shots.

“We came in and did some good things,” Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. “But mentally, that [the way the game was called] was a curveball and we didn’t adjust to it good enough. We did not expect the game to be called quite that way, but that will happen from time to time. We just didn’t adjust to it. We are accountable.”

On Saturday, the Hokies missed their first nine shots as Clemson ran out to a 9-1 lead. Jeff Allen made Virginia Tech's first field goal with 12:39 left in the half.

Virginia Tech had a 29-27 halftime lead, but that was because it scored 20 points on 25 attempts from the free throw line. The Hokies shot only 15.4 percent from the field after making 4 of 26 attempts, while Clemson turned over the ball 10 times and failed to sustain much offense.

And after a first half that was bogged down by whistles after whistle, Virginia Tech continued to benefit from the Tigers' foul troubles in the second half. Clemson forward Trevor Booker, the Tigers' leading scorer, picked up his fourth foul with 13:14 left. He promptly went to the bench after the foul but returned with 6:58 left.

After Booker's departure, the Hokies made an 11-4 run to pull away, going 18-of-21 from the foul line in the second half to gain the victory.

Both teams shot a dismal 30.6 percent from the floor for the game, but the Hokies held a 38-14 advantage in free-throw points and that was the difference.

“I told guys at halftime that we have to adjust to it, but the second half was just more of the same,” Purnell said. “Delaney is one of best free throw shooters in the league, or the country, and he keeps going to the line. We can’t keep putting him on the line, and then we had some shots we didn’t make in there. We didn’t step up at the free throw line and convert in the first half or the second half. We didn’t have anything going offensively, that is for sure.”

The Tigers had won three in a row in Blacksburg, but the Hokies are undefeated at home this season (12-0).

The Tigers return to action Wednesday night when they host Florida St. at 7 p.m. in Littlejohn Coliseum, the first of three straight home contests for Clemson.

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