Tigers had no answer for Clinch

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt felt Clemson's pressure defense was not an issue at all Thursday, and he was right. But he owes that thanks to his star player, guard Lewis Clinch.

The senior lit the 17th-ranked Tigers up for a career-high 32 points, most coming from long range in the Yellow Jackets' 86-81 victory in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

The Tigers (23-8) seemed lost underneath the Georgia Dome as the 6-foot-3, 196-pound guard found different ways through screens and breakdowns in the Clemson defense to get open.

On the rare occasion he was guarded, he still had the confidence to pull up and drain the three.

"I'm a shooter," Clinch said. "When they give me open looks I'm supposed to knock them down."

But when Clemson's Terrence Oglesby was draped all over Clinch with 3:57 to play, the senior still had the presence of mind and the confidence to rain a 23-foot shot over him.

That basket gave the Jackets a 75-62 lead at the time.

"He's been a big time player for us for a long time," Hewitt said.

For Clemson he was a thorn in its side. David Potter and Tanner Smith chased Lewis around the Georgia Dome floor all afternoon. But some how, either lost in the press or slipping his body through a little crack from a pick set by either Gani Lawal, Zachery Peacock or Alade Aminu, Lewis found the open spot on the floor and more times than not, he hit the open look.

"When you are in that press and you are scrambling to get back, you always have a couple of big bodies under the basket," he said. "Your first thought when you see the guys down there is that you have to stop the ball and get down low. Then Clinch is hanging out on the perimeter and you just kind of forget about him.

"Even in the half court, their big guys are so big and they set those screens and create space, and all he needs is a little space to get open." Lewis was open enough to connect on 11-of-20 shots, including 5-of-12 from behind the arc.

"They were just running off a lot of stagger screens and over the top screens," Potter said. "He was running off all kinds of screens and he was getting open. We were chasing him well, but I guess when he had the ball and he closed out, he had no conscience.

"He was just hitting tonight. He was pulling up in everyone's face. Coach (Oliver Purnell) was telling everyone to make him a driver and make him put the ball on the floor, but he just wouldn't do it and he would shoot over the top on us."

Lewis said he owed all the credit to his post players for the solid screens they set in order for him to be open.

"I have got the easy job of getting the shot down when they get me open," he said.

His coach just smiled and then laughed at his star player for giving his teammates the praise, but Hewitt knows the only reason the Yellow Jackets advanced in the tournament was only because of Clinch's clutch shooting.

"Everyone else is getting to the end of the year, he is just getting cranked up, "Hewitt said. "I expect him to go out tomorrow and play the way he's played the last six or seven games."

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