Clemson loses to Virginia Tech

Clemson gave itself a chance to defeat Virginia Tech on Thursday night in the first round of the ACC basketball tournament at Philips Arena. But it couldn’t make free throws, including a critical miss by Tanner Smith in final minute, and the Hokies held on for a 68-63 victory.

Virginia Tech (16-16), the 10th seed, will play second-seeded Duke (26-5) at 7 p.m. in Friday’s quarterfinals. Erick Green led the Hokies with a game-high 24 points. Dorenzo Hudson added 19.

Unless the Tigers (16-15) are invited to one of the postseason tournaments, the loss brings Smith’s career to an end. The Alpharetta native scored 12 points, with six rebounds and a team-high six assists. However, he missed the first opportunity in a one-and-one situation with the Tigers trailing by five and 46 seconds left.

Smith got a second chance when a lane violation was called against Virginia Tech, but he missed again.

“Sometimes they just don’t go in,” Smith said. “It’s tough to swallow.”

Bryan Narcisse grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled, but he missed the first free throw. He made the second to cut the gap to 63-59 with 44.2 seconds left.

The Tigers were forced to foul, and Dorian Finney-Smith made a free throw to push the margin to 64-59.

Smith airballed a 3-pointer after contact on the Tigers’ next possession, but Devin Booker got the wayward shot and was fouled. He made one of his two free throws to cut the Tigers’ deficit to 64-60 with 20.8 seconds left.

Green made two free throws before a 3-pointer by Milton Jennings cut the gap to 66-63 with 17 seconds left, but Hudson made two free throws seal the victory.

“Whether or not it’s my last game, it’s my last ACC tourney,” Smith said. “It’s kind of weird. There’s been lots of good moments and lots I wish I could change, but it’s been an honor to play for Clemson.”

The game was similar to the first two between them this season, which each home team won by two.

Neither team could shake the other in the second half, until Hudson and Green made back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Hokies a 58-52 lead with 3:50 left. Hudson’s came on a fast break, while Green benefited from an assist by Finney-Smith.

A free throw by Cadarian Raines after a flagrant foul by Booker pushed the Hokies’ advantage to 59-52 with 3:29 left.

A layup by Finney-Smith gave Virginia Tech a 61-52 lead before Booker stopped the run with a dunk off another assist by Smith to cut the Tigers’ gap to seven with 2:04 left.

The Tigers forced a five-second violation against Virginia Tech and then capitalized with a 3-pointer by Delvin Coleman to cut the margin to 61-57 with 1:48 left.

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