BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech guard Erick Green nearly transferred when the school made a coaching change last May. The fact that Tech hired former Hokies assistant James Johnson, the man who recruited him to Blacksburg, for the job helped sell Green on staying.
After scoring 29 points in his final home game at Cassell Coliseum Saturday night, a 69-61 Virginia Tech win over Clemson, Green said he's glad he stayed. Despite a difficult season in terms of wins and losses, the freedom Johnson has afforded Green has helped him develop into the nation's leading scorer.
Green scored 17 points in the first half as the Hokies built an 11-point halftime lead, their largest at the break since the season's third game against VMI. And he hit a huge 3-pointer and clutch free throws in the closing minutes to help Tech hold off a Clemson charge.
"It was real important," Green said of winning on senior night. "I told the guys before the game that this is one thing I really want. I couldn't ask for anything better, just to go out in Hokie nation with a win. I started with a win in my first game here and I wanted to end with a win walking out. I did that."
After enduring a nine-game losing streak, Virginia Tech (13-16, 4-12 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won two of its last three games. The Tigers (13-15, 5-11) have lost four straight and seven of their last eight.
"That's a tribute to the guys, and I'm fortunate enough to coach a good group of young men," Johnson said of his team's recent success. "That's one thing I haven't had to coach all year long is effort. They've come in with a positive effort and they've come in with a mindset that we're going to work hard and get better."
C.J. Barksdale added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Hokies.
Devin Booker scored 17 points to lead the Tigers. Milton Jennings and Adonis Filer added 13 each.
Clemson's deficit grew to 15 points early in the second half before the Tigers found an offensive rhythm and got back into the game. Clemson, which is last in the ACC in scoring offense, scored on seven straight possessions midway through the second half and pulled to 50-48 after Jennings' basket with 10:05 left.
Jarell Eddie capped a quick 5-0 Virginia Tech run with a free throw with 8:22 left. After the Tigers got within 57-53 on a Jennings 3-pointer with 6:50 left, the teams traded turnovers and bad offensive possessions for the next three minutes before Green got loose on the right wing and nailed a 3-pointer to push the lead to 60-53 with 3:39 left.
"He made some shots off screens, he made some runners, he's just a good player," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said of Green. "It's just hard to guard him one-on-one. He's a shot maker."
Clemson wouldn't go away, though. Rod Hall sank a basket and Filer stripped Robert Brown and scored a transition dunk to cut the lead to 60-57 with 2:43 left.
The Tigers had a chance to tie in the final minute after forcing a turnover with its full-court press. Clemson missed a 3-pointer and Filer missed two free throws. Barksdale grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws after being fouled, then hit two more after Clemson missed its next shot, putting the game away.
"Kind of the story of our season," Brownell said. "We probably had four or five bad offensive possessions and some critical areas where you just need to be better. Our young guards did some silly things."
Six minutes into the game, the teams were deadlocked at 9-9 before Clemson went on a mini-run to take an early edge. A Booker three-point play gave the Tigers a 15-11 edge with 12:30 left.
The Hokies responded with an 11-2 run capped by Barksdale's steal and layup to take a 21-17 lead with 9:56 left. Virginia Tech extended the edge toward the end of the half, taking a 10-point lead on Brown's floater with 1:20 left.
Brown gave Tech its biggest lead in the half's closing seconds, knocking down a 3-pointer in the left corner after Barksdale rebounded a Marshall Wood miss.
Green got on an early roll, scoring 17 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field. The Hokies shot 62.5 percent in the first half and outrebounded the Tigers 16-9.
NOTES: Clemson's K.J. McDaniels, who injured an ankle in the shootaround before Thursday's game against North Carolina, missed his second straight game Saturday. ... Clemson faced Virginia Tech on the Hokies' senior night for the third time since Tech joined the ACC. Clemson won the two previous meetings. ... Brown returned to Virginia Tech's starting lineup after coming off the bench the last three games.