Tigers hope to keep slim tourney hopes alive with win over Hokies
|Tuesday, February 21, 2017, 2:02 PM- -|
One more road game and the Tigers can come home.
Clemson’s basketball team completes the road portion of the ACC schedule tonight when they take on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The game will be televised by ESPNU and tips off at 7 p.m.
Following the game against Tech, Clemson plays the final three regular season games at home in Littlejohn Coliseum against No. 20 Florida State, N.C. State and Boston College. The Tigers are 14-12 overall and 4-10 in the ACC, but a weak field nationally means the Tigers are still sitting on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
But they have to get past Tech, a team that defeated the Tigers in Clemson earlier this season. The Hokies are without versatile power forward Chris Clarke, who hurt his left knee in Sunday’s double-overtime win over Virginia. After learning last Monday that Clarke had torn his ACL and would miss the rest of the season, the Hokies rallied to beat Pitt 66-63 a week ago and lost a 94-90 thriller to Louisville Saturday.
“I think now they have four and five shooters who can make shots on the court at all times. I think Chris Clarke is a terrific player – very dynamic in the open floor and an unbelievable competitor,” head coach Brad Brownell said of the Hokies. “He just wasn’t a guy who shot the ball much. Now they’ve really opened it up. They’re shooting the ball exceptionally well from three. Defensively, they haven’t changed as much. They’re still mixing in zones and man and change things to keep you off balance.”
Brownell said his team understands what’s at stake, but right now he just wants his team to improve.
“I think guys understand winning means better seeding in tournaments and all of those kinds of things. We’re just trying to talk about finishing off games a little bit better, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think we’re playing reasonably well. I think the missed free throws and the shooting in the Miami game wasn’t what it’s been or what we want it to be. It’s hard. You’re not trying to miss shots. I thought we took a lot of good shots, we just didn’t shoot the ball well, so that’s not effort. Other than making sure you get reps in practice, you don’t harp on that too much if shot selection is good.
“Our shot selection grade was pretty good. Finishing plays, understanding how to win games, finishing off plays defensively, having a few better possessions offensively – we talk more about those things than the other. I think we’re a team that’s lost several close games, but at the same time we’ve played pretty well in most of them. We just have to figure out a way to finish off games like the ones that have gotten away from us, whether it’s a couple of big shots that we’ve missed or getting stops. That’s kind of what we’re telling our guys.”
CLEMSON (14-12, 4-10) vs. VIRGINIA TECH (18-8, 7-7)
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 21
Tipoff: 7 p.m. ET
Arena: Cassell Coliseum (10,000)
Radio: CTSN (Tony Castricone-pbp; Tim Bourret-color)
TV: ESPNU (Rich Hollenberg-pbp; Dino Gaudio-color)
• Clemson finishes its ACC regular season road schedule Tuesday, looking for its first win at Virginia Tech since 2013-14.
• The Tigers have won six times previously in Blacksburg, four since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004-05.
• Clemson is 38th in the latest KenPom ratings, eight spots higher than its opponent Tuesday, Virginia Tech. The Tigers have faced the nation's No. 4 strength of schedule, according to KenPom. Only Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas have faced more difficult schedules.
CU Series W-L record: Virginia Tech leads 17-15
Streak: Virginia Tech has won the last two meetings
• Virginia Tech is the 18th consecutive opponent the Tigers have played that is rated among the top 100 in the latest RPI. The Hokies are No. 35 overall.
• Clemson has committed 10 turnovers or less in four consecutive ACC games. The record by a Brad Brownell coached team was five in 2015-16.
• Elijah Thomas is averaging 11.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game over Clemson's last three contests; he is 14-20 from the floor over that time.
• Shelton Mitchell has scored double figures in six of the last seven games, averaging 12.1 points per game during that stretch. Mitchell had 10 assists in the first meeting with Virginia Tech.
• Jaron Blossomgame needs eight rebounds to pass former Clemson great Larry Nance for eighth in the record books for career rebounds (785) as a Tiger. Blossomgame ranks among Clemson's top 10 in points, rebounds, starts and free throws in a career.
• Marcquise Reed has averaged 13 points per game over the last five contests, and is coming off a 15-point performance at Miami.