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January 15, 2014

Clemson Prevails Late 56-49

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In what's become an overdone theme, Virginia Tech again had a long shooting slump. This time for the Hokies, it came in the first half.

Again though, a big second half run by Virginia Tech's opponent made a comeback difficult. Though the Hokies took the lead late in the second half, poor shooting down the stretch and clutch makes by Clemson proved to be more than enough for a 56-49 win.

Freshman guard Devin Wilson led Virginia Tech in scoring with 14 points. He and his teammates though, didn't score in the final two minutes of the game.

"I just thought we had some guys who missed some shots," coach James Johnson said. "Defensively, we got a few more open looks than I expected to get against this team. We just didn't make 'em."

After a sluggish start, the Hokies rebounded with a pair of three-pointers and grabbed at 10-7 lead with 14:32 left in the first half. That's when the shooting woes crept in. Virginia Tech went nearly six and a half minutes without a field goal, during which the Tigers went on a 9-0 run.

"It's just mental lapses," freshman guard Ben Emelogu said. "We have to execute and learn to find ways to get over that hump when we have a drought. We need to get over that hump and if we can come out with the 'W,' I think that's the only thing holding us back. We just have to find a way to get over that hump."

Only when sophomore forward Joey Van Zegeren cut into the lane for a dunk did the drought end. That cut the Hokies' deficit to 16-12 with 8:08 left in the half.

Virginia Tech knifed into the Clemson lead even more and tied the game three more times before senior forward Jarell Eddie had a layup waved off by an offensive foul. The basket would have given the Hokies the lead. Still, they trailed just 25-24 at halftime, thanks in large part to eight big points in the half from Van Zegeren.

Early in the second half, Van Zegeren came out of a trio of Tigers to feed Wilson cutting down the lane for a layup. But it was Eddie who gave Virginia Tech its first lead of the game since the Hokies led 10-9 with 13:02 to go. His three-pointer from the corner put the home team up 31-28 with 16:54 to play and forced a Clemson timeout.

All told, Virginia Tech went on a 12-5 run to start the second half. A layup by Wilson and free throw on the next possession gave the Hokies their biggest lead of the game to that point at 36-30. But Clemson came back and buoyed by an intentional foul called on Eddie, retook the lead at 37-36 with 12:10 to go.

The Tigers lead grew to 40-36 at the 10:54 mark following a three-pointer by sophomore Adonis Filer, which forced a Virginia Tech timeout. That ended a 10-0 run for Clemson as Wilson's layup cut the deficit to 40-38 also ending a four-plus minute scoring drought for the Hokies.

A stretch of one of four free throws made by Van Zegeren with just over six minutes left didn't help, but a jumper by Emelogu then cut the Tigers' lead to 46-43. Trailing 49-43, a lay-in by Van Zegeren put Virginia Tech down two, before a steal by Emelogu and free throw made the score 49-46 Clemson with 2:38 left. Emelogu then atoned for his missed free throw with a three-pointer in the corner to tie the game at 49 with 1:51 remaining.

That would be the last points the Hokies would score in the game. Virginia Tech shot 4-14 from the free throw line for the game, including just two of its final nine attempts.

"I've been in a little slump lately, free throws-wise," Wilson said. "I've been working on them, getting 'em up in practice, getting 'em up after practice in the mornings, but it just seems like they're always rattling out. I'm gonna knock 'em down next game."

Filer quickly silenced the crowd though with a runner in the lane and free throw after Van Zegeren's fifth foul of the game. And after sophomore forward C.J. Barksdale lost the handle on a drive, the Tigers hit a pair of free throws to end any Virginia Tech run.

The Hokies are now 8-8 on the season after dropping five of its past six games. Virginia Tech, which dropped all three games on its first ACC homestand, plays at Notre Dame at 6 pm Sunday.

"It's a big slide for sure, but that doesn't mean we can't come back," Wilson said. "Maybe we go down to Notre Dame and get a big win there, hopefully and just go off of that."

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