Feb. 13, 2016
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) Clemson coach Brad Brownell is glad his defense finally stepped up and won a game as the Tigers try to get back in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Clemson held Georgia Tech to 34.5 percent shooting, lowest by one of its Atlantic Coast Conference opponents this season, and had a season-best 10 steals in a 66-52 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Jaron Blossomgame scored 17 points for the Tigers (15-10, 8-5 ACC), but the junior said he knows this game was won on the other end.
”Coach Brownell told us at halftime we needed something from our defense to win this game,” Blossomgame said.
Clemson led 48-46 in a ragged, foul-marred game before Avry Holmes got a steal and a layup with just under eight minutes to go, and on the next possession, Sidy Djitte stole the ball again and Donte Grantham tipped in a missed layup to put the Tigers up six.
The Yellow Jackets (13-12, 3-9) missed their next 10 shots and couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way as Clemson’s 18-6 run put the game away.
Saturday’s game started Clemson’s finishing stretch of five of six games against the bottom four in the ACC as the Tigers try to get back on the NCAA Tournament bubble with a resume that includes nonconference losses against 6-18 Minnesota and 10-13 Massachusetts. The Tigers also get No. 7 Virginia at home.
Holmes had six of Clemson’s 10 steals. Jordan Roper added 15 points and Gabe Devoe nine rebounds for the Tigers.
Charles Mitchell scored 11 points and had a career-high 19 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets.
But Mitchell was about the only highlight inside for Georgia Tech. Clemson got 40 points in the paint to 20 for the Yellow Jackets, and the Tigers led 21-10 on second-chance points.
No put-back was more important than Landry Nnoko’s basket with 4:29 left after Holmes missed two free throws. Nnoko worked around Mitchell, and instead of trailing by five with the ball, Georgia Tech was down seven points and never got closer.
”That’s the mortal sin. You can’t give that away,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said.
Clemson turned the ball over just six times, matching its season best. The Yellow Jackets had 13 turnovers.
Adam Smith led the Yellow Jackets with 12 points and Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 10 as Georgia Tech is now two games behind in its effort to avoid having to play in the opening day of the five-day ACC tournament for the third straight season.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have finished in the bottom four of the ACC every season since 2011. … Georgia Tech has lost 12 of its last 13 against the Tigers and 11 straight in Clemson’s gym.
Clemson: Blossomgame is averaging 19.1 points in ACC games, the most since Will Solomon scored 21.3 a game for Clemson in 1999-2000. … Brownell is 11-1 against Georgia Tech, the most wins for him against any ACC team. He has seven victories over Wake Forest.
Blossomgame is making a run to get on the all-ACC team.
He should finish the weekend in the top five in the league in scoring average in ACC games and the top 11 in rebounds. The junior has had at least 17 points in 10 of his last 11 games and scored 20 or better in six of his last eight.
”He’s a guy we’ve leaned on heavily this year. He’s been able to deliver,” Brownell said.
MITCHELL’S MONSTER GAME
Mitchell’s 19 rebounds were the third-most in any game this season by an ACC player. He pulled down 15 rebounds in Georgia Tech’s last game against Wake Forest after combining for just 15 rebounds in the three games before that.
”Sometimes success isn’t always the easiest to handle,” Gregory said about the senior who has had double-figure rebounds in 17 of his 25 games this season.
But Gregory said the Yellow Jackets still need more from Mitchell and leading scorer Georges-Hunt.
”With him and (Georges-Hunt) they almost have to be mistake-free. And that’s hard to ask these guys,” Gregory said.
Georgia Tech travels to Florida State on Wednesday.
Clemson hosts Boston College on Wednesday.