Tigers Run Away From Hokies Down The Stretch

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BLACKSBURG, Va. - This time it was Clemson's turn for some late-game heroics.

The Tigers overcame a seven point deficit in the final four minutes Wednesday night, escaping with an 86-81 victory over Virginia Tech in Blackburg, Va. The win improved the Tigers to 17-11, 6-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Both victory totals are one more than the team earned all last season, and also gave Clemson its first two-game conference winning streak of the season.

It was also the 299th victory in head coach Oliver Purnell's career.

"It's a gratifying win, no doubt about it. I thought we took Virginia Tech's best shot...the toughness at the end and the defense they played," Purnell said. "But our guys hung in there, kept trying and wouldn't quit. Finally we knocked down some shots. Three-point shooting and free throw shooting came up big for us tonight."

The Tigers outscored Virginia Tech (14-14) 14-2 in the final 3:41 to claim the victory. Cliff Hammonds hit the key shot to give Clemson the lead in the final moments, and then a combination of good luck and good defense helped the Tigers pull out the victory.

Hammonds came up with the loose ball after Shawan Robinson was rejected on the way to the basket and knocked down the jumper from left of the key, giving his team an 82-81 lead with under a minute to go.

The Hokies misfired on a 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession, and when the ball went over the backboard the Tigers got the ball back with just over 30 seconds to go. Hammonds was fouled on the other end and went to the line to shoot the one and one.

Hammonds hit one of two for an 83-81 lead, and had the long rebound for a moment off the miss, but had the ball knocked away off his body and out of bounds to turn it over.

But Vernon Hamilton, manned up with Tech's Zabian Dowdell, knocked the ball off Dowdell's leg and out of bounds with 11.3 seconds remaining. Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenburg, feeling Dowdell was fouled, slammed a towel down on the floor and said something in the direction of one of the officials. He was immediately assessed a technical foul.

Shawan Robinson hit both technical free throws for an 85-81 lead, and after a foul on the inbound pass Akin Akingbala hit one of two to ice the game.

"We didn't have trouble scoring all night," said Purnell. "We just couldn't stop them. Finally we got some stops, and that's when we went on the run to win the game."

Akingbala led the Tigers with 21 points, while Hammonds added 18 and Robinson 17. All of Robinson's points came in the second half. Sam Perry had 10 points, all in the first half.

Dowdell topped the Hokies with 17 points.

Clemson shot 13-of-22 (59 percent) from the 3-point line for the game, 11-of-14 in the second half. The Tigers also continued their improved free throw shooting, knocking down 21-of-27 (77.8 percent) for the game.

Clemson closes out the regular season Saturday afternoon at home, hosting Georgia Tech on Senior Day at Littlejohn Coliseum.

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