Clemson has improved at the free-throw line after last season’s dismal performance. The Tigers, though, made a couple of shots from the charity stripe last year when it mattered most against Virginia Tech.
With these teams playing close games in recent years, the 12th-ranked Tigers look to keep focused at the line when they visit the upset-minded Hokies in an ACC matchup Thursday night.
Clemson (17-2, 3-2) is making 67.7 percent of its fouls shots, including 74.2 percent (23-for-31) in a 73-59 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday night.
The Tigers are on pace to finish with their best free-throw percentage in eight years. Last season, Clemson shot an ACC-worst 62.3 percent.
Last March 9 against the Hokies (14-5, 4-1), however, the Tigers got a clutch performance from Demontez Stitt. Stitt, then a freshman, made two free throws with 3.8 seconds left and Clemson down by one to give the Tigers a 70-69 win.
Clemson has won three straight versus Virginia Tech, with each of the last two being decided by one point. Five of the last six contests have been decided by two points or fewer, and this could be another tight contest with both teams playing strong defense and battling for position in the conference.
The Tigers lost two straight to top 5 teams before bouncing back against Georgia Tech. The Hokies, meanwhile, beat then-No. 1 Wake Forest on the road Jan. 21 before an 88-83 overtime victory over Miami four days later.
A matchup with the Yellow Jackets, the only team still winless in ACC play, gave the Tigers an excellent opportunity to get back on track. They routed Georgia Tech despite shooting 37.5 percent from the floor, getting by with a strong game at the line.
Clemson’s 23 free throws were its second-highest of the season after making 25 in a season-opening 98-69 win over Hofstra Nov. 14.
Stitt went 0-for-5 from the floor against Georgia Tech, but made all six of his free throws. Terrence Oglesby led Clemson with 18 points, but went 5-for-15 from the field.
Oglesby, shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range, went 5-for-13 from beyond the arc against the Yellow Jackets and is 12-for-35 (34.3) in his last four games.
“I’m getting a lot of open shots and it’s discouraging because it’s still that close,” said the sophomore guard, averaging 13.7 points.
Oglesby is one of three Clemson players posting double digits in scoring. The Tigers, though, also boast an aggressive defense, holding opponents to 64.7 points a contest.
Virginia Tech is giving up 65.9 points per game, but needed to come up big on offense in its last contest.
Tied at 77 heading into OT, the Hokies got a clutch performance from Malcolm Delaney down the stretch against the Hurricanes. Delaney scored a career-high 29 points, making a 3-pointer with 1:49 left in OT that gave Virginia Tech the lead for good at 84-83.
Delaney, who had 21 points against Wake Forest, was named ACC player of the week Monday.
“Every game I come out, I feel I have something to prove,” he said. “But with our team, winning (is) our number one focus.”
The sophomore guard is averaging 17.6 points per game. Senior swingman A.D. Vassallo tops the Hokies with 18.4 points a contest.