Despite Malcolm Delaney’s heroic 37-point effort and three 15-point leads, the Virginia Tech Hokies managed to lose on their home floor, 82-86, to the No. 12 clemson tigers.
Everything seemed to be going right for the Hokies. They scored a season-high 53 points in the first half; shot 60% from the field; 40% from three-point range; and 81% from the free throw line – all in the first half. Delaney had 22 first-half points and finished with 37, which set a school record for most points by Hokie in ACC play. Naturally, it was also a season- and career-high for the sophomore who is quickly making a name for himself.
The Hokies were on fire in the first half. They hit almost every thing they threw up, outrebounded the much bigger and more physical tigers and with the help of a raucous, packed house at the Cassell, they pushed their way to a 14-point lead, 45-31, with 4:44 to play.
However, clemson cut the Hokies’s lead to just five, 49-44, on Trevor Booker’s three-pointer with 57 seconds left in the half. A.D. Vassallo missed the back-end of a pair of free throws and clemson pulled down the rebound. With time winding down, clemson missed two shots before Delaney grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled to half court and launched a shot at the buzzer that hit nothing but net. The Cassell erupted into a deafening cheer that sent the Hokies to the halftime break with a 53-44 lead.
The second half began much like the first half ended. The Hokies raced out to a commanding 15-point lead early in the second half with an 8-2 run to make it 61-46. But, clemson then went on a 24-3 run to catch and then pass the Hokies. At one point, Tech went 6:56 without a single point and it was that scoreless drought that doomed the Hokies.
The tigers were virtually unstoppable in the second half. They shot 13 percentage points better from three-point range, 56%, than they did from the field, 43%. K.C. Rivers, who led clemson with 29 points, was 7 of 10 from behind the arc.
As Niemo pointed out in his preview, Tech just got manhandled by clemson’s big men. The Hokies couldn’t seem to get a single 50/50 ball and were out-rebounded 29-36 for the game, despite a healthy rebounding edge at the half. Niemo was also right (not that this should come as a shock to anyone) in that the Hokies just got winded – clemson’s bench is deep and the Hokies just couldn’t match that depth.
Despite giving up the 15-point lead and falling behind by six points, 66-72, with 7:30 to play; Tech got its second wind and came back to tie the game before Delaney drained a trey to put the Hokies back in the lead, 79-76 with 3:25 to go.
The tigers pulled even with the Hokies at 80 before David Potter nailed a triple that put clemson ahead for good. Tech got within one, 82-83, but with the shot clock at 1 second and clemson inbounding the ball, Dorenzo Hudson tipped the inbounds pass out of bounds. However, the shot clock did not begin to run and the official did not see the deflection. This gave clemson another inbounds play which they converted into a layup and an 82-85 lead. The Hokies couldn’t recover and eventually fell 82-86.
The loss overshadowed a historic night for Delaney who had 22 points in the first half and 15 in the second. He made 6 of 10 three-pointers and played 39 minutes. Vassallo struggled in this game and only had 10 points and made just 1 of 6 trey attempts. Jeff Allen was the only other Hokie to score in double digits – he had 13 points.
Delaney’s performance, though in vain, should earn him serious consideration for back-to-back ACC Player of the Week honors.