CLEMSON - CUTigers takes a look at the key players from Saturday's 69-60 win over Virginia Tech.
Standing on solid ground
"I think we can stick with anybody in the country. We've proven ourselves this year with our defense and our intensity that we deserve to be in the tournament," said Demontez Stitt, who scored 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting and handed out five assists against the Hokies.
With the win, the Tigers locked up fourth-place in the ACC regular season and clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Clemson improved to 20-10 overall (9-7 ACC) and Virginia Tech dropped to 19-10 (9-7 ACC).
"I think this gives us confidence going into the ACC Tournament," Stitt said. "But it also sends a message out to everyone around the conference that we're one of the best teams in this conference and we deserve it."
Fellow senior Jerai Grant led Clemson with 17 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. His final point was scored with one eye open from the free-throw line.
Virginia Tech forward Jeff Allen, who was limited to one field goal, caught Grant in the left eye with his finger as he tried to steal the ball from the Tigers' leading rebounder with 31 seconds left to play.
"It gets competitive," Grant said.
Maybe not that competitive.
After Devin Booker's 3-pointer, which gave Clemson a 6-2 lead less than two minutes into the contest, Virginia Tech never cut the deficit to fewer than four points the rest of the way.
The Tigers led by 15 before the Hokies went on a 19-8 run over the final 9:46 of the first half.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell admitted to a feeling of disappointment with only a 34-30 lead at halftime.
"We weren't deflated in the locker room," he said. "But there was just a little frustration that we were only up four. It feels like we were up eight to 10 the whole half and playing well."
Less than six minutes into the second half, the lead was back up to 10.
Eleven minutes later, a run-out dunk from Tanner Smith gave the Tigers a 59-44 lead over the Hokies, matching their largest advantage of the afternoon.
"They're a good team," Grant said. "We were just the better team tonight."
Stitt received a technical foul with 1:28 left in the game after banking in a crashing layup with Delaney guarding him closely. Clemson led 63-56 after the ensuing free-throws.
Stitt admitted to getting caught up in the moment. But that's likely anytime he matches up with one the top guards in the ACC.
"When I'm playing against guys that are talked about as one of the top players in the conference, especially guards, I want to prove that I'm the better player," Stitt said.
Brownell, who notoriously has yet to receive a technical foul in his coaching career, joked that he hasn't picked one up at Clemson because he's been too busy keeping Stitt in the good graces of the officials.
"He's just so fiery and competitive. It's great to have all that, but you can't have everybody like that," Brownell said. "You've got to be able to think about what's going on. God bless him, every once in a while I've got to grab him in the second half and we have to have a little come to Jesus meeting where I try to settle him down.
"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I love that about him. That's his fire…that's why he's good."
And that's a big reason why the Tigers have won 88 games over the last four years.
Clemson's senior class of Stitt, Grant, Zavier Anderson and Jonah Baize are the third winningest senior class in the ACC. Only Duke and North Carolina seniors have more wins.
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