Tigers expect another close battle with Jackets

by - Correspondent -
Blossomgame says he needs for his teammates to step up
Blossomgame says he needs for his teammates to step up

Thirteen of Georgia Tech’s 14 ACC games this season have been decided by single digits. The lone exception was a 14-point loss to Clemson on Feb. 13.

But even in that game, the Tigers led by just two with less than eight minutes remaining before outscoring the Yellow Jackets 18-6 in the final 7:53.

So Clemson head coach Brad Brownell expects a close game when his team travels to Atlanta on Tuesday to face the Yellow Jackets.

“They were playing pretty good coming into our last game. They’ve been in a lot of close ones, and they hadn’t won a couple,” Brownell said. “You go back and watch the tape of our game, and it was a very physical, tough game like we usually have with those guys.”

The Yellow Jackets are surging, having won three of their past four games to get to 15-12 overall and 5-9 in the ACC. They won at Florida State last week before upsetting Notre Dame on Saturday.

“They’re playing at a good level; they’ve won three out of four,” Brownell said. “We’re not surprised by it because we play Georgia Tech all the time. We know they have good players. We know they’re prepared, they scout, their coaches have them in good positions. It’s like anything, it’s a matter of winning some close games. Here recently, they’ve won a few.”

Marcus Georges-Hunt’s move to point guard has been a key to the recent surge with him scoring 27 points against the Seminoles and 19 against the Fighting Irish. Clemson will counter with junior Avery Holmes, who has been terrific defensively throughout the year.

He led the charge that held Anthony “Cat” Barber, the ACC’s leading scorer at more than 23 points per game, to eight points on 1-of-12 shooting Saturday in the Wolfpack’s 77-74 win.

Georges-Hunt scored 10 points on 2-of-7 shooting in the first meeting between the Tigers and Yellow Jackets.

“He’s been giving maximum effort defensively all year,” Brownell said of Holmes. “That’s one of his great strengths. It’s something we thought he’d be able to help us with. He’s got a real passion for defending. He did a really good job (Saturday). He was on his own certain times and was able to fight and compete in a way that made it difficult for (Barber).”

Clemson will try to get back on track after the three-point loss to N.C. State on Saturday. The Tigers have lost three of their past five games to fall to 16-11 overall and 9-6 in conference play.

But one of those wins came against the Yellow Jackets in Greenville.

“I guess it’s good, we just played them,” forward Jaron Blossomgame said. “I would imagine they’ll do some things differently to try to stop us. We had some guys step up later in the game, and I feel like they’ll do some things to try to slow me down and slow the other guys down. So I think it will be an interesting game.

“We’re definitely going to need more guys to step up if we want to win this game.”

Blossomgame certainly has stepped up his game this season, averaging 18.1 points and seven rebounds per game. He has scored at least 30 twice in the past four games – 30 against Notre Dame and 33 against N.C. State.

But the junior noted that both of the games were losses.

“I just want to get the best out of my teammates. I can’t do it all by myself, scoring a bunch of points … both of my games I had career highs, we lost those games,” Blossomgame said. “It goes to show I need my teammates to help me step up.”

The Tigers have three games left – vs. Virginia and on the road against Boston College after Tuesday – to finish the regular season. They are seventh in the conference standings entering Tuesday’s game.

“We’ve just got to stay confident and keep believing,” Blossomgame said. “We’re right there in the thick of things in the ACC. We still have a chance to finish in the upper half of the league and get a good seed for the ACC Tournament, so we’re still believing in each other, and we still believe we can do great things here.”

*Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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