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Sharrod Ford's breakaway dunk with 0.2 seconds from a Shawan Robinson pass capped a frantic final sequence of events and gave Clemson the 66-64 victory over Virginia Tech Tuesday night at a half-filled Littlejohn Coliseum.
"(Robinson) had the ball at half court and I saw that everybody was around him and there was nobody with me and I was yelling for him to give me the ball," Ford said. "I saw the clock and I knew I had to get the ball off quick so I just went up. It was dunk or nothing."
Clemson improves to 15-13 overall and 5-10 in the ACC. Virginia Tech drops to 15-13 overall and 7-8 in the ACC.
With 16.1 seconds left to play, the Hokies' Carlos Dixon sank two free throws to give Virginia Tech a 64-61 lead.
With no timeouts, Clemson point guard Vernon Hamilton raced the ball up court and looked for Robinson and guard Cliff Hammonds coming off of screens, but they were guarded which caused Hamilton to go to his right, where he found senior Olu Babalola, who calmly hit a 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds remaining.
Prior to his shot, Babalola was made just two of his last 16 3-point attempts. On the season, he was shooting 25.5 percent from beyond the arc.
"On that last shot, I was open and I wanted to take leadership," he said. "Also, I didn't to have the risk of giving it up to somebody else in a bad position where they weren't open."
Jamon Gordon then took the inbounds for the Hokies and he too raced toward his goal and he looked to have an opening in the lane to take it to the hoop, but instead he tried a bounce pass to a cutting Virginia Tech player.
Robinson, however, stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it with less than five seconds to play. Robinson then weaved his way through traffic and as soon as he crossed half court, it looked as though he was going to pull up for a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
But he fooled everyone, including his own coach, and threw a pass to Ford, who caught it with less than a second left and dunked it.
"I looked at the clock (after stealing the pass) and there were four seconds left and I knew we could get at least a half-court shot," Robinson said. "Once I broke through, I saw Vernon on my right and Cliff was on my right, and when I got to half court, I saw Sharrod standing underneath the basket and he was wide open so I threw it to him. …
"Olu hits the three to tie the game up and Sharrod gets the game-winning dunk. You couldn't ask for a better finish."
That is unless you ask Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg his point of view.
"It depends on your perspective," he said. "If you're Coach (Oliver) Purnell, you're pretty high. If you're Seth Greenberg, it sucks. That's just the way it is."
It seems everything evens out in the end. Back in January, Clemson lost a game in very similar fashion at Virginia Tech. This time, the tables were turned.
But Greenberg thinks differently.
"I don't know if there's poetic justice in college basketball," he said. "It might be happenstance. We had a three-point lead with 14 seconds to go and we didn't finish the game."
Purnell, however, said even though Clemson has qualified for the NIT, he still has his sights set on making the NCAA Tournament.
"I kind of had my mind on the NCAA the whole time," Purnell said. "It's nice to have the minimum of the NIT. You will see four or five tournaments this year where a seventh for eighth place team will win it. But the only way you can win it is to be playing well."
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