Comeback Kids

No. 11 Clemson used a 37-19 run to erase a nine-point halftime lead in beating Virginia Tech 86-82 Thursday night at Cassell Coliseum.

It was a game that featured a little bit of everything.

From a 60-foot shot at the buzzer to huge scoring nights for players for both teams to the "black out" in full force by the Virginia Tech fans at Cassell Coliseum, Thursday night's game at Virginia Tech will be remembered for a lot of things.

But most of all, it will be remembered for an incredible come-from-behind win by the 11th-ranked Clemson Tigers, in one of the most hostile environments in the ACC no less.

Trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, Clemson ended the game on a 37-19 run to come away with the four-point win against one of the hottest teams in college basketball.

The Hokies entered the game winners of nine of their last 10 games, and is the only team in the nation to beat Wake Forest this year.

But it started about as badly as it could have from Clemson's perspective.

Virginia Tech opened the game with a double-digit lead after breaking Clemson's full court pressure with ease.

Once Clemson got out of the press though- the game changed.

"We just weren't getting much out of our full court pressure," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "That took them out of transition and got them out of their offensive rhythm and put us in attack mode.

Tech sophomore point guard Malcolm Delaney scored a career-high 37 points Thursday night, including drilling a 60-footer before halftime, but it wasn't enough to lift Virginia Tech past No. 11 Clemson. (AP)
"Then our guys just fought. The first 15 minutes they [Virginia Tech] came up with every loose ball and every rebound. Then we kind of took the physical fight back."

Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney scored a career-high 37, including a 60-foot shot before halftime to give the Hokies a 53-44 advantage.

"We talked at halftime about team toughness and I think we saw that in full effect in the second half," Purnell said.

Still, the Hokies went ahead by 15 in the first three minutes after halftime, courtesy of a layup and a three-pointer by Delaney, before the Tigers finally got on track.

It was a 20-1 Clemson run changed the complexion of the rest of the evening.

Trevor Booker got things going with a jump hook from the left side before Demontez Stitt connected on a three pointer from the right side to immediately cut the lead back to single digits.

Rivers then scored seven consecutive points before Stitt made his second three-pointer of the night to give Clemson the lead at 64-63 with 11:40 left to play.

It was the Tigers' first lead since going on top 3-2 during the first three minutes of the game. The run also featured Stitt's only two field goals of the game.

But it was Rivers, who finished with 29 points after making seven of 10 three-pointers, that made the difference down the stretch.

"He had a huge game," Purnell said. "Maybe as good of a performance as I've seen in the league all year long. That was an unbelievable performance- his in-between game and he did everything else. He blocked a shot at the end."

After the Tigers established a six-point lead with just over five minutes to play, the Hokies came roaring back once again.

A layup and two free throws by Delaney pulled the Hokies within two, before a layup by Jeff Allen and another three-pointer by Delaney gave Virginia Tech the lead back at 79-76 with just 3:12 left to play.

With just one second remaining on the shot clock and the Tigers inbounding the ball on Clemson's next possession, Booker caught a perfectly thrown pass under the basket, missed a shot but rebounded and scored to move the Tigers within one.

Booker finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

After Jeff Allen made a free throw, David Potter took over for two of the biggest shots of his career.

Potter drove down the right side for a gliding layup to tie the game at 80 before drilling a three from the top of the key on Clemson's next possession to give the Tigers a three-point lead and there was no looking back.

The final score of 86-82 was indicative of just how close these two teams have played each other since the Hokies entered the ACC four years ago, as each of the last seven games between Clemson and Virginia Tech have now been decided by five points or less.

And with the win, the Tigers have now won eight of nine road games this year, with many of those in come-from-behind fashion.

Clemson also trailed big early at Illinois, at South Carolina and at Miami before storming back to capture the win.

After what has to be considered an exhaustive victory, Clemson now gets the next five days off before facing No. 1 Duke next Wednesday night at Littjlejohn Coliseum.

"This is a a big win for us as far as our standings in the ACC, but we got a tough ballgame coming up Wednesday," Rivers said. "We've got to turn our focus on to Duke."

Tip-off against the Blue Devils is set for 9:00 PM.

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