Tigers Hold Off Tech for 17th Win
CLEMSON - This one was just what the Clemson Tigers needed.
The 10th-ranked Tigers got a big lift on the inside from sophomore Jerai Grant and a big game from the outside from Terrence Oglesby, ending a two-game ACC losing streak in posting a 73-59 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Littlejohn Coliseum Sunday night.
The win improved Clemson to 17-2 overall and pushed them back over the .500 mark at 3-2 in the ACC, which becomes critical with a game at Virginia Tech on Thursday night, followed by home games against Duke and Florida St.
“I thought we did a lot of things well out there tonight,” Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. “We pretty much stayed with our offensive game plan and made them guard the inside. We did a decent job of rebounding the ball, and I thought our pressure caused some problems from a standpoint of causing turnovers.”
The Yellow Jackets came out firing, using a three guard lineup to start the contest, jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead in the first two minutes, but the Tigers found their offensive range and defensive mindset over the next five minutes, scoring the game’s next 11 points. Five different players scored during the streak, including reserves Andre Young, David Potter and Grant.
The Tigers would eventually take their largest lead of the half, at 23-16, when Raymond Sykes took a Potter miss and drove the rebound back home for a slam to get the Littlejohn crowd excited.
The Jackets would come back and lead 34-31 when Iman Shumpert hit two free throws with 1:05 remaining, but Stitt hit two free throws and Booker a third to tie the score at 34 with 43.7 seconds left on the game clock. On the ensuing Georgia Tech possession, Grant then made what may have been the biggest play of the half for the Tigers, forcing Shumpert into a charging foul with just 15.8 seconds on the game clock.
Demontez Stitt then drove the lane and kicked out to a wide-open Potter, who drilled a three-pointer from the left wing with just two seconds left, and the Tigers escaped the opening half with a 37-34 lead.
The Tigers then continued that momentum in the second half, scoring the first six points of the stanza, the last two on a Grant dunk off a feed from Booker for a 44-34 lead at the 17:32 mark. Shumpert hit a three-pointer to get the Jackets on the board, but Booker then slammed a dunk home on a feed from Stitt and Oglesby hit three-pointer as Clemson opened its biggest lead at 49-37.
“We really did a good job of sprinting into the half and then out of the half,” Purnell said. “That is something we have not done a good job this year and in the past three our four games.”
A Zachery Peackcock free throw broke the streak for the Jackets, but Sykes scored on a dunk, then on the defensive end, Grant blocked a Shumpert shot and Oglesby hit his fourth three-pointer for a 53-38 lead barely six minutes into the half, giving Clemson a 24-4 run since the final minute of the first half.
The Clemson lead would balloon to as much as 21, at 63-42, but the Jackets then employed a full court press that helped trim the Tiger advantage to just 13 with a little over four remaining, but the Tigers hit enough free throws down the stretch to close out the win.
Purnell said he was pleased with the play of Grant, who started in the opening lineup of the second half, in place of Sykes, and finished with 10 points, which included being perfect from the field (4-4) and free throw line (2-2). He also nabbed four rebounds and had the only two blocked shots.
“Jerai has been playing really well for us all year long,” Purnell said. “He did a very good job against (UNC’s Tyler) Hansbrough, and tonight he played physical inside, blocking shots and rebounding and finishing well. He did and outstanding job tonight.”
Oglesby, who was the Tigers’ leading scorer with 18 points, said the finish of the first half and opening flurry of the second half was reminiscent of what happened against North Carolina last week when
“It had a lot of the same resemblance of the three that (Wayne) Ellington hit up there to end the half,” Oglesby said. “Potter gave us a jolt of energy going in. He was able to knock it down and get us energized. We needed this win. We are still not where we need to be, but we are getting better. We need to do a better job of taking care of the ball, but it’s a process.”