Michael Devoe was off today. He shot just 1-7 for 3 points. Normally that wouldn’t lead to a Tech victory, but much of the rest of the team stepped up today. Three players had their best game this season for the Yellow Jackets. And of course the defense forced a lot of turnovers from Clemson.
Tech’s star today was Deivon Smith. He made big play after big play on the offensive end. He finished with 16 points on 6-10 shooting, but he also had 4 offensive rebounds and 6 assists. He seemed much more in control today than he normally does and had great movement off the ball. I hope we see more of this Deivon Smith.
The other two players to have career days were Miles Kelly and Jordan Meka. Kelly has struggled from behind the arc this season, but today he hit 3-5 and forced Clemson out to respect him every time he touched the ball. He finished with 10 points. Meka came off the bench and put in 20+ good minutes for the Jackets. He wasn’t a big offensive threat, but he made a ton of hustle plays and looked very good on the defensive end. He earned more play time today. Jordan Usher didn’t have his best game this season, but he did play well and deserves a mention. His steal with 25 seconds left in the game was critical.
The Jackets started slowly, falling down 8-2, before going on a 24-2 run over the next 10 minutes, much of which was with Devoe on the bench. The defense looked fantastic in this portion of the game. They forced a ton of turnovers (18 total while Clemson averages just 11). Clemson also couldn’t buy a three. Al-Amir Dawes shot 6-10 from deep (with most of that coming late in the game). The rest of the team shot 0-14. Many of those were open or somewhat open threes. The basketball Gods shined on Tech today.
After that monster in the first half, Tech and Clemson played to equilibrium with Tech between a 7-12 point lead until there was 5 minutes left in the game. Then Clemson started hitting shots, clamping down on defense, and making it a game. The Tigers got the lead down to as few as 3 with 20 seconds left in the game, but Deivon Smith and Kyle Sturdivant made clutch free throws down the stretch to finish the game off.
Clemson was led by PJ Hall who was a monster down low scoring 18 points on 9-15 shooting with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Al-Amir Dawes helped out with 18 points, all on three pointers.
Beating Clemson at home (with the Tigers missing one of their better players) isn’t exactly a banner accomplishment, but with the way this season has gone it feels great to put another one in the win column. There were some bright spots in this game that make me think things will turn around a little bit for the rest of the season. This bring the Yellow Jackets up to 3-8 in conference. On Wednesday the Yellow Jackets head to Miami to face the Hurricanes in what is probably the toughest game left on the schedule. After that GT gets a bit of an easier stretch so hopefully they can pick up some more wins there and head into the final portion of the season with some momentum.