Clemson 77, Virginia Tech 70

Jennings’ 28 lead Clemson past Virginia Tech 77-70

January 27, 2013 

— With his college career coming to an end, Milton Jennings is finished worrying about point totals and breakout performances.

Jennings scored a career-high 28 points, tied his college best with 14 rebounds and four blocks and went 16 of 18 from the foul line in Clemson’s 77-70 victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday. He’s one of just two upperclassmen on the Tigers roster, but says he won’t get caught up in such showings over the final few weeks of the season.

“All that matters is getting that W. That’s all I care about,” Jennings said. “Whatever, I had, 28, means nothing to me as long as we get that win. That’s what the team needs, and that’s what everybody wants.”

Consistency, though, has been a problem for the 6-foot-9 Jennings in his college career. He scored 21 points two weeks ago in a win over Virginia, then had just 18 points combined in Clemson’s next three games – two of them losses.

Still, Jennings says it’s essential he stay in the offensive flow and not try and get out of control for the Tigers (11-8, 3-4 ACC).

“What we’re trying to do is get the motion going so all of us can get in an even pace,” Jennings said. “We’ll figure it out.

The Tigers had let a double-digit lead slip away and trailed 59-58 when Jennings took over, scoring half his points over the final four minutes. His foul shot with 3:20 remaining gave Clemson the lead for good at 61-60. Damarcus Harrison’s 3-pointer extended the lead and Jennings inched the ball over the rim moments later, then added two more foul shots for a 68-62 lead. The Hokies never got closer than four points the rest of the way.

Jennings, a senior, provided the push for Clemson when leading scorer Devin Booker was held without a field goal and just three points. Booker, who’s averaged 13 points a game this season, has been dealing with a fever, Jennings said, and wasn’t himself.

Erick Green, the ACC’s leading scorer, had 25 points for Virginia Tech (11-8, 3-3). First-year coach James Johnson was proud of his team’s comeback, yet disappointed they let chances slip away at the end. Robert Brown and Jarell Eddie both missed shots to extend the Hokies’ lead when they were up 59-58. Virginia Tech was 4 of 14 from the field the final four minutes.

“When we have those opportunities, we have to be able to make those plays,” Johnson said.

Harrison, a transfer from BYU, also had his career high for Clemson with 19 points. K.J. McDaniels scored 17 points off five 3-pointers. Booker collected 10 rebounds.

Jarell Eddie had 19 points for Virginia Tech, which has lost two straight.

Clemson came into this one off two close defeats, 66-62 at 14th-ranked North Carolina State last Sunday and then 60-57 at Florida State this past Thursday night when Michael Snaer banked home a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the game-winner.

Virginia Tech had lost its two-game ACC win streak earlier this week when it fell to rival Virginia. And it looked like the Hokies might be on the way to two straight losses when Clemson broke out to a 12-0 lead less than seven minutes into the game.

McDaniels had two of his three first-half 3-pointers during the Tigers’ surge while Virginia Tech missed its first 10 shots. But like always when these teams play – 12 of the 13 meetings since the Hokies joined the ACC have been decided by single digits – things tightened up.

Virginia Tech found lanes in Clemson’s usually stout defense – the Tigers are second in the ACC in points given up – and rallied from the foul line as it made 12 of 15 free throws in the opening half.

Green’s two foul shots tied the game at 31. Green’s driving layup a minute later sent the game to the locker room tied at 33.

Green had 14 points for the Hokies.

McDaniel led the Tigers with nine first-half points, but played just nine minutes because of foul problems.

The game got physical in the second half with Jennings getting called for a flagrant foul and Tigers coach Brad Brownell picking up the first technical in his 11 seasons as a head coach. The Hokies had three players foul out, including starters C.J. Barksdale and Cadarian Raines.

Virginia Tech’s Johnson was back at Clemson for the first time since he spent less than two weeks as a Tigers assistant last spring. He was hired by Brownell to replace Rick Ray, who took the head coaching job at Mississippi State. But then Virginia Tech let Seth Greenberg go and called on Johnson to take over.

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