Tech’s win came courtesy of a true team effort. Freshman point guard Nait George led the way offensively with 20 points and six assists. Kyle Sturdivant added 18, Kowacie Reeves chipped in 15, Miles Kelly finished with 14 points and six boards and Baye Ndongo registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Forward Tyzhaun Claude played 38 minutes, scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds all while wrestling on the defensive end with Clemson star forward PJ Hall. Hall finished with a career-high 31 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, but only scored three points in the two overtimes.
“The biggest thing I was impressed about with (Claude) was his wind. He hadn’t logged that many minutes in a long time,” Stoudamire said. “But he was prepared. He played his butt off.”
Tech only led for 5:20 inside Littlejohn Coliseum, got beat on the boards 45-33, allowed 30 second-chance points and gave up 50 points in the paint. Clemson forward Ian Schieffelin had 20 points and 15 rebounds as part of the Tigers’ concerted effort to win inside.
Stoudamire’s counter strategy was to fire away from deep. His Jackets made 15 of the 35 3-pointers they tried, none bigger than George’s game-tying triple at the end of regulation.
“Now I’m not gonna sit up here and act like we wasn’t trying to stop ‘em (inside),” Stoudamire said. “I wasn’t trying to let ‘em score. But I do have that model: 3′s beat you, 2′s don’t. You can stay in the game. We stuck around and stuck around and stuck around.”
Case in point, the Jackets were nearly left for dead with 1:43 to play trailing by nine. But Sturdivant was fouled on a 3-point shot and sank all three free throws to cut the deficit to six. Then Reeves buried a 3 with 52 seconds to go and then George hit two triples in the final 12 seconds to tie the score at 71-71 and send it to overtime.
In the first extra session both teams scored 11 points and each had one final possession to try to win the game. Tech’s began with 23 seconds on the clock and ended with a turnover out of bounds with 2.9 seconds to go. Hall missed a long 3 at the buzzer on the other end forcing a second overtime.
The Jackets trailed 86-84 as the clock ticked under three minutes to play in the second overtime. Kelly made a free throw and then a jumper to give the visitors the lead back and then George hit two huge shots, one a turnaround jumper from the right block and a second falling away from the left side of the perimeter to put Tech ahead 91-88.
Sturdivant knocked down a pair of free throws with four ticks to go to ice the three-point victory.
“The last four games I feel like should have went the other way. But it didn’t,” Sturdivant said. “But we never waver from each other and I think that’s the most important part. We’re connected to each other, we’re committed to each other.”
The Jackets return home to host Virginia (11-5, 2-3 ACC) at 6 p.m. Saturday.
On Tuesday, Tech began the contest smitten with the 3-ball. The Jackets went the first 14:15 of the game without a made shot from inside the arc – a layup by George that sparked the start of a 10-0 run that put Tech up 26-25 after a Kelly triple from the right corner.
Clemson scored the final four points of the half to take a 32-30 edge into the break. Tech had to feel fortunate only down a pair after shooting 35.5% from the field, getting out-rebounded by 10 and giving up eight offensive boards. Seven of Tech’s 11 made field goals in the first 20 minutes were from long distance.
Clemson (12-5, 2-4 ACC) took command early in the second half with an 8-2 run to go up 44-36, forcing a Tech timeout. But the Jackets hung tough and were within 46-43 on an Ndongo putback and then 49-46 when Sturdivant banked in a 3 from the left side to beat an expiring shot clock.
At the 10:16 mark, Sturdivant connected on another 3, this one after shaking his defender and stepping back behind the line on the right side, to get Tech within 53-52.
Three minutes later Tech was down 59-57 and had the ball coming out of the timeout. But over the next four possessions the Jackets missed a 3 and then turned the ball over three times in a row in missing a golden opportunity to seize control and momentum late in what appeared to be a fatal stretch for the visitors.
Instead, Tech got it done.
“I’m really happy for my guys. They were resilient tonight,” Stoudamire said. “Sometimes as you sit over there on the sidelines you say to yourself, ‘Man, hopefully we’ll catch a break.’ Because these guys deserve to win a game. We’ve been in so many games like this. Down nine with under two minutes to go, those guys really dug deep and they made shots. The difference between tonight’s game and the ones that we’ve lost is that down the stretch we made shots.”
- Tech improved to 2-4 on the road, 2-5 when trailing at halftime, 3-8 when trailing with five minutes left in regulation, 4-8 when the opponent scores at least 70 points and 9-4 when one player scores at least 20-points
- The Jackets improved to 68-77 all-time vs. Clemson, 18-49 at Clemson and 10-42 at Littlejohn Coliseum
- Tech’s last win at Clemson was March 6, 2020
- Kelly needs 25 points to reach 900 for his career
- George has 66 assists this season in 14 games played
- Attendance was 7,217