BLACKSBURG, Va. - With a chance to take a major step forward in its rebuilding process, Clemson tripped and fell flat.
Carlos Dixon stole a lazy pass from Tigers point guard Vernon Hamilton and drove the length of the floor for a dunk with 6.9 seconds to play, lifting Virginia Tech to a 59-57 win over visiting Clemson on Saturday. The sudden victory was the Hokies' first ever in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Hamilton's turnover was the final blow in an error-filled afternoon for the Tigers. Clemson (10-6, 1-3) committed 22 turnovers overall.
"That’s a hard one to take.," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "Right from the beginning we turn it over. I don’t know how many times, but they had eight steals in the first half. We should have been shooting for the win but we turn the ball over.
"You've got to have good guard play in this league and our guard play was very suspect. We turned the ball over at least six times at the top where they got layups that we could not defend."
The Tigers had one final opportunity to win the game after Dixon's dunk, but Shawan Robinson's 3-pointer from the corner missed. A final tip attempt at the rebound also fell short, and the Hokies (8-6, 1-2) escaped with the win.
Clemson had led by as many as eight points in the game, and shot the ball extremely well in the first half (58 percent). Virginia Tech's defense cooled down the Tigers' shooting in the second half, but Purnell walked away from the game believing a big one had gotten away.
"It was disappointing. I don’t know where to start or end because we did so many small things to put us in a situation where we lose this one by two," Purnell said.
"I think we blew an opportunity."
Zabian Dowdell led the Hokies with 15 points, Jamon Gordon added 14, Dixon had 12 and Deron Washington 10.
Sharrod Ford led the Tigers with 16 points and nine rebounds. Hammonds added 12 for Clemson, which led most of the game and held a 32-25 halftime advantage.