BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP)—Clemson showed it could take the heat.
The Tigers withstood second-half pressure from No. 21 Virginia Tech on Sunday for a 75-74 victory that prevented the Hokies from capturing a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s regular-season title.
“We’re not a clutch team, but we needed this win and we got it,” said K.C. Rivers, who led the Tigers (21-9, 7-9) with 22 points and scored the decisive basket with 18 seconds remaining. Rivers, whose season average is 13 points, was 5-for-7 from 3-point range and hit all three of his second-half attempts.
Cliff Hammonds added 17 points and six assists for the Tigers in the ACC regular-season finale for both teams.
“We made a couple of big plays down the stretch,” said Hammonds, who had three 3-pointers.
The Tigers shot 61 percent in the second half, including 75 percent from behind the arc. The Hokies (20-10, 10-6) shot 64 percent after halftime, but only 33 percent from 3-point range.
“This is a tough road win, as good a win as we’ve had all year,” said Tigers coach Oliver Purnell.
Zabian Dowdell led Virginia Tech with 25 points. Jamon Gordon added 14 points. Both are seniors who were among five honored by Tech at the beginning of the game.
“It’s a fine line between winning and losing,” Hokies coach Seth Greenberg said. “We were in position. We just weren’t tough enough on one or two plays defensively.”
Except at the very beginning, the Hokies didn’t lead until Dowdell stole the ball and ran the length of the court for a basket to make it 66-65 with 5:48 remaining. Clemson took the lead back when Hammonds hit a basket and a 3-pointer, and led 70-66 with 3:10 left.
Dowdell then had four points as the Hokies went on a 6-0 run to regain the lead at 72-70. Rivers made a 3-pointer to give Clemson a one-point lead with 2:11 left, only to have Dowdell respond with a jumper to give Virginia Tech a 74-73 lead with 47 seconds left.
The Tigers built a 26-11 lead, thanks to a 15-0 run, with 10:08 left in the first half. But Dowdell then got hot, scoring 15 points as the Hokies narrowed the deficit to 35-32 at halftime.
“We were down and we fought back,” Gordon said. “We should have won this game. We gave them too many opportunities.”