Holmes lifts Clemson to 74-62 win over Georgia Tech
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson’s Elijah Thomas knew he hadn’t played close to the defense he was capable of and took it upon himself to dig in and improve. The rest of the Tigers seem to have followed along, winning for the second straight time after a demoralizing six-game Atlantic Coast Conference losing streak.
“It’s been a lot of adjustments, a lot of learning,” said Thomas, the Texas A&M transfer. “There’s a different energy in this building and I love it.”
Especially if the Tigers can keep things going like they did against Georgia Tech.
Avry Holmes had 18 points off four 3-pointers and Shelton Mitchell made six foul shots in the final minute in Clemson’s 74-62 victory Wednesday night.
Thomas said the Tigers weren’t communicating on defense, thinking the talent they used to build a 10-2 record in nonconference play would carry them into the ACC. Instead, Clemson (13-8, 3-6) struggled to put away opponents, losing four of its six league games by a combined 13 points.
But during the team’s week off last week, Thomas said Clemson’s staff held earlier, harder practices and emphasized better defensive play. Clemson used its renewed spirit to build a 21-point second-half lead, one the Tigers saw shrink away to 65-58 with about two minutes left.
Georgia Tech, though, could get no closer as the cold-shooting team missed the three shots it took the rest of the way to lose its 12th straight road game in the series — Clemson’s longest home win streak against any ACC opponent.
Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner sensed his own team was lacking energy, despite coming in after wins over ranked opponents in Florida State and Notre Dame. Turns out, he was right — Tech’s starters other than Ben Lammers were a combined 5-of-26 shooting for 25 points.
“When that happens, it’s hard for us to win,” Pastner said.
Mitchell ended with 15 points and Thomas had his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in the final minute. Donte Grantham had 11 points while leading scorer Jaron Blossomgame was the fifth Tiger in double-digits with 10 points.
Lammers had a career high 25 points for the Yellow Jackets, surpassing the 24 he got earlier this month against Louisville. Lammers was 12 of 18 from the floor and grabbed nine rebounds.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have been an ACC surprise this season with wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame. At Clemson, though, Georgia Tech was largely cold from the floor. While Lammers made six of his eight shots, the rest of the Yellow Jackets were only 5-of-16 shooting. They also had 11 turnovers the first 20 minutes, nearly as many as the 14 a game they’ve averaged this season.
Clemson: The Tigers finally broke out of a six-game ACC losing streak at Pittsburgh last time out and worked hard to keep the good play flowing at home, where the team has not won since defeating UNC Wilmington on Dec. 28. Holmes went 3-of-3 from behind the arc to push Clemson to an eight-point lead at the break.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell’s not so sure his team is that different than it was during its six-game losing streak. Then again, that’s what happens in ACC play sometimes. “There are a lot of teams in this league who are going to have a bad couple of weeks,” Brownell said.
GEORGIA TECH STRUGGLES
The Yellow Jackets struggled in part because of an ankle injury Quinton Stephens and an illness to Josh Heath. Pastner said he was told earlier Wednesday that Heath would miss the game. But Pastner said Clemson’s training staff got him an IV that settled him down by game time. Heath played 28 minutes, but he was just 1 of 3 for two points.
Georgia Tech continues its road swing at Wake Forest on Saturday.
Clemson travels to No. 15 Florida State on Sunday.
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