Horne, Nolley lead Virginia Tech to 67-60 win at Clemson
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Virginia Tech coach Mike Young knew before his first game with the Hokies he’d have a marquee player in Landers Nolley II.
Nolley, playing his first game, didn’t disappoint with 30 points in leading the Hokies to a 67-60 win over Clemson on Tuesday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference and season openers for both teams.
P.J. Horne had a tie-breaking dunk with 63 seconds left to put Virginia Tech ahead for good and gave Young his 300th career win and first at his new gig.
Young was sold on Nolley “about 20 minutes after I got on campus.”
Nolley showed everyone else what Young has seen up close arriving at Virginia Tech last spring.
“We’re just going to compete every night,” Nolley said. “And try and do the same thing every night.”
That would be a big boost to a program that heard much more about what it lost than those on the sidelines this season. The Hokies reached the past three NCAA Tournaments under Buzz Williams, who left for Texas A&M. It lost top players in Nickeil Alexander-Walker (off to the NBA), Kerry Blackshear Jr. (transferred to Florida) and Justin Robinson (a senior last season).
Young believes a result like this helps the players understand that things don’t have to end simply because the stellar players from last season are gone.
For players “to re-up and suck it up (saying) ‘this is my home and I love Virginia Tech. We’re going to be back, we’re going to be back soon.’ I’m appreciative of that,” Young said.
Not that it came easy.
Clemson rallied from 55-50 down to it at 57-all with 1:11 left. That’s when Wabissa Bede came out of a defensive tangle to throw a long pass to a wide-open Horne, who jammed the ball, got fouled and made the free throw.
Bede came up big one more time when he blocked the shot of Tigers freshman Al-Amir Dawes, picked up the steal that lead to a basket from Tyrece Radford to seal it with 39 seconds left.
Nolley is a 6-foot-7 freshman, who redshirted last season. He made 12 of 23 with four 3-pointers. Nolley built Virginia Tech’s lead down the stretch with a basket and two foul shots to go up 55-50 with 4:58 to go before the wild finish.
It was Clemson’s first loss in a season opener since 1984-85, a run of 34 straight wins that was snapped. Of course, the Tigers hadn’t faced an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent during that long run.
The league, in a nod to the recently launched ACC Network, chose to start its new 20-game basketball schedule with ACC play to open the season.
Newman led the Tigers with 15 points. Aamir Simms finished with 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies have a stellar building block with Landers Nolley as they try and keep their NCAA Tournament run — they’ve qualified for the past three — going. Young spent the previous 18 seasons at Wofford where he reached five NCAAs between 2010 and 2019.
Clemson: The Tigers played without four senior starters from last season and it showed. They settled for far too many outside shots (7 of 28 on 3-pointers) and struggled to get the ball underneath to take advantage of Aamir Simms, the lone returning starter.
Clemson started a freshman backcourt in Al-Amir Dawes and Chase Hunter — and their inexperience showed. The two struggled with their shots (they combined for 2-of-9 shooting on 3-pointers) and couldn’t make plays down the stretch. “We’re a young team, we don’t have enough experience with that yet,” Clemson forward Aamir Simms said. “Going forward as a team, we’ve got to learn from it, watch the plays and find a way to not make those mistakes.”
It was a festive homecoming for Young, who spent the past few decades only an hour or so away from Clemson’s campus in Spartanburg, Wofford’s home. Young had been 0-7 at Clemson — all as Wofford’s coach. “Incredibly ironic,” he said. “I haven’t had a lot of success down here as you may recall. But that’s how it shaped up.”
Virginia Tech starts its home schedule with Coppin State on Friday night.
Clemson continues its three-game opening week against Presbyterian on Thursday night.
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