GREENVILLE, S.C. — Clemson delivered another dominant defensive performance on Saturday afternoon at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, as the Tigers downed Georgia Tech, 66-52. Jaron Blossomgame led the Tigers with 17 points, which put him over 1,000 for his career, while Jordan Roper finished closely behind with 15 points. The two leaders helped the Tigers earn win No. 15 on the season, pushing Clemson to 8-5 in the ACC. Tech fell to 13-12 overall, 3-9 in league play.
Avry Holmes put together a strong defensive performance, as the junior forced six of the Tigers’ 10 steals on the day. Clemson also managed to hold Georgia Tech to 1-11 shooting from three-point range, and held the Yellow Jackets to just 25 percent overall after halftime.
Despite quick baskets by Landry Nnoko and Blossomgame at the outset, the Tigers struggled to find consistency on offense early in the wake of Georgia Tech’s hot start from the field. The Yellow Jackets quickly pulled out to a 14-8 lead. Clemson continued to gradually dig into Tech’s lead while playing stout defensively. As the Yellow Jackets struggled to make shots from beyond the arc, the tide began to turn in the Tigers’ favor following a successful three-point play from Blossomgame to bring the Tigers within four at 20-16 with 11:12 to go in the first half.
From there, Clemson got quality physical play from Nnoko in the paint, who, despite an early foul, provided the Tigers with a spark as he went 3-3 from the field in the first half. Following a Nnoko basket to bring the Tigers within two at 24-22, Roper snagged a rebound off of a Georgia Tech shot attempt and turned it into a quick score to tie the game with 7:44 to go in the half. With 4.4 seconds left in the half, Roper came up one of the biggest plays of the game, stealing a Georgia Tech inbounds pass and draining a long jumper as time expired to give Clemson momentum and a 37-32 leading at halftime.
The Tigers continued to stay aggressive defensively despite a second-half surge from the Yellow Jackets. With the Yellow Jackets pulling within a point at 43-42, Clemson got a big three from Roper to keep the Tigers ahead 46-42. However, the Yellow Jackets refused to yield, keeping Clemson on its toes the entire half. Trimming the Tigers’ lead down yet again, it was Holmes that came up with the big defensive play, with a steal and score to push the Tigers’ lead back to four at 50-46 with 7:53 left. The ensuing Georgia Tech possession, Sidy Djitte came up with the steal that resulted in an offensive rebound and layup from Grantham to push the Tigers ahead 52-46. Despite continued resilience from Georgia Tech, Clemson never relinquished its lead in the midst of its stout defensive performance.The Tigers finish out a three-game home stand on Wednesday, February 17 when Boston College visits Greenville. The two teams square off at 7 p.m. from Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Tickets are available by visiting ClemsonTigers.com or by calling 1-800-CLEMSON.
Clemson’s win was its 11th straight at home in the series with Georgia Tech, extending the school record over another ACC foe.
The Tigers have won 12 of the last 13 against the Yellow Jackets, dating to Trevor Booker’s Senior Day in 2010.
Clemson recorded its 50th ACC win for Brownell (including tournaments).
Brownell has guided the Tigers to at least eight ACC regular-season wins in five of his six seasons.
Clemson had a season-high 10 steals Saturday.
The Tigers had a season-low three assists, but also matched their low with only six turnovers.
Georgia Tech made nine of its first 14 shots, but the Tigers held the Yellow Jackets to just 10 of its final 41 attempts (.244).
Jaron Blossomgame joined Clemson’s 1,000-point club Saturday. He became the club’s 38th member, and 23rd Tiger to do it in three seasons or less.
Blossomgame posted a game-high 17 points and made all seven of his free throws.
Jordan Roper scored double figures for the 13th time this season, and for the fifth time in the last six games.
Roper needs just 50 points to reach 1,000 for his career.
Avry Holmes had a career-high six steals defensively, most in 188 games under Brad Brownell.
Holmes’ steal total was the most by a Tiger since Andre Young had seven against Maryland in 2010.
- Gabe DeVoe had nine rebounds Saturday, his highest figure ever in an ACC game.
Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell
“Just a really good, hard fought win for us. I really thought our defense was very good the last 25 minutes of the game, and I was pleased with the way our guys competed. This is a game that you have to win through competing, and we did a good job battling on the boards and that was pretty much even after giving some rebounds up early. Our defensive activity was outstanding, Avry (Holmes) was great with six steals. Both teams just know each other very well, and a lot of these games end up that way, where it is tough to score and if you aren’t making shots, which neither team was, it just makes it even harder. Things get tight in the post, it was very physical. Overall, our guys played well in spurts offensively and we drove it well late and got fouled, and we made some free throws. It was good to win a game with our defense. You have to win games lots of different ways to be a good team, and today it was defensively.”
What was different about today as opposed to Monday against Notre Dame:
“I thought our activity level was better today, obviously more deflections and more steals. It was a different kind of team, Notre Dame is a little more perimeter oriented, but today we had to do a good job on the boards and I thought we did. I just thought our individual defensive effort was better too, our individual match-ups, just guarding guys. Certainly Gabe (DeVoe) rebounding the ball was huge, tonight he had eight defensive rebounds and nine total, that was significant. We had a lot of guys contribute in different ways, Jaron (Blossomgame) made baskets early in the game were big to just keep us in the game. We didn’t play as well offensively early in the game and I thought that Jaron (Blossomgame) was what kept us going, and then he missed some in the second half that he usually always makes. But I thought Georgia Tech defended well and made it hard for us.”
On the significance of winning a gritty, defensive game and the margin:
“To be fair to Georgia Tech, the final score was not indicative of the game at all, the game was closer than the score and that happens in a lot of games. This was a two to three possession game for most of the day. They had a little lead early, and then we took over at the end of the first half and kind of kept it at six for a while. Then they got close again and we pulled away and the score ended up being by more than is indicative of how the game was played. Your point of us winning a game in a tough manner is something this team needs to do, we aren’t a soft team, I am very critical of my team when it comes to playing hard and being physical and all of those kinds of things. We aren’t as big, so it is a little more difficult for us sometimes to be as physical but I thought our guys really stepped up today and played in a very tough manner.”
Georgia Tech Head Coach Brian Gregory
“Give it up to Brad (Brownell) and the boys. Their physicality was the difference in the game, both in the post and on the perimeter. Our inability to score around the basket with 14 offensive rebounds led to only 10 second chance points. One of eleven from three doesn’t help either when you have probably four or five of those that are really good looks. You’ve got to be able to make a couple of them, especially if you’re not finishing plays around the basket. Then, we were out of sorts a little bit. We’re a team that doesn’t turn the ball over a lot. A good assist to turnover ratio, and we were flipped today. It’s hard. You look at Clemson and their stats, only three assists, because so much of it is move the ball and then space and then going one on one. And you just have to do a much better job being physical defensively without fouling. And then you’ve got to be really physical on offense, you’ve got to be able to cut harder, screen better, get the ball inside, and then finish some plays around the basket.”
On Clemson’s offensive rebounding
“We were bad defensive rebounding-wise. A big one. A five-point game and we give up an offensive rebound on a free throw miss. That’s a critical, critical play. That’s a mortal sin. You can’t give those up, and that was crucial. You look at our defensive rebounding. Chuck (Charles Mitchell) did a good job, but we’ve got some guys that play 17, 18 minutes and don’t get a defensive rebound. That’s not good. It has to do with physicality, you’ve got to hit people. It’s not illegal to actually hit somebody and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
On the turnover at the end of first half:“I thought the five points previous to that was every bit as big as that. Our guy just made a mistake. He just made a mistake. And you want to throw the ball to the outside with the guy cutting down on the inside. But the five points previous by (Jaron) Blossomgame, I thought were critical. One was a “bang bang” play in the post, and the other one was an “and-one.” But those seven points in their last two possessions — don’t give them credit on the last possession because that was our ball — it was a steal, so they hit seven points on that.”