Clemson's Thursday night loss was eerily similar to many of the other games played against ACC opponents this season.
The pattern goes something like this: stay close through the first half, usually despite too many turnovers and poor free throw shooting, and then let the other team pull away in the 8 or 9 minutes of the game.
That's exactly what went down Thursday evening in Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Tigers stayed within striking distance of 20th ranked Wake Forest all evening long, but after pulling within 3 points at 49-46 midway through the second half, they simply ran out of gas.
Justin Gray led the Deacons with a career high 29 points, and helped spark a crucial 13-2 second half run that put the game out of reach.
Gray was responsible for back-to-back three pointers to go along with a steal and layup during the critical run that essentially put the game away.
"You can't have a guy who's on fire, like Justin Gray, take all those 3s like he did tonight," head coach Oliver Purnell said in the locker room afterwards.
Even though the final margin of victory was 15, the Tigers had their chances, especially at the free throw line where only 17-of-34 attempts were converted successfully. Freshman guard Vernon Hamilton finished 1-for-8 from the line.
Wake Forest on the otherhand, made 28 of their 35 free throws en route to the victory.
Clemson's leading scorer, Sharrod Ford, fouled out with 5 minutes left in the game with only 5 points on 1-of-3 shooting.
With the loss, Clemson falls to 9-12 overall, and 2-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Wake Forest improves to 14-6 overall, and 5-5 in the ACC. The Tigers have now lost 6 of their last 7 games overall, and 11 of their last 12 to Wake Forest.
The Tigers' next game will be Saturday afternoon against FSU in Tallahassee. Clemson defeated the Seminoles 53-48 in a home tilt back in January. Tip-off is set for noon.
WAKE FOREST (14-6): Levy 5-7 2-2 12, Danelius 1-2 0-0 2, Visser 2-3 1-2 5, Gray 7-13 11-12 29, Paul 3-9 9-10 16, Ellis 3-4 2-2 8, Downey 2-6 0-0 5, Williams 1-6 3-6 5, Hendley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-50 28-35 82.
CLEMSON (9-12): Babalola 5-7 10-12 22, Hobbs 3-3 1-4 7, Ford 1-3 3-6 5, Christie 4-8 1-2 10, Robinson 1-6 0-0 2, Rice 3-3 1-2 9, Hamilton 3-7 1-8 8, Hudson 0-1 0-0 0, Akingbala 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 22-41 17-34 67.
Halftime — Wake Forest 32-25. 3-Point goals — Wake Forest 6-16 (Gray 4-9, Paul 1-3, Downey 1-3, Levy 0-1), Clemson 6-11 (Rice 2-2, Babalola 2-3, Hamilton 1-1, Christie 1-4, Robinson 0-1). Fouled out — Levy, Ford, Hamilton. Rebounds — Wake Forest 30 (Levy 8), Clemson 27 (Hamilton, Akingbala 5). Assists — Wake Forest 16 (Gray, Paul 5), Clemson 13 (Christie 5). Total fouls — Wake Forest 29, Clemson 28. A — 7,000.
Tigers Fall to Wake
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