BLACKSBURG, V.A. — Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams admitted that he and his team only focus on increments of 24 hours.
“Just be consumed with today,” he said.
That approach certainly has been working.
Justin Robinson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored 14 points each to lift the Hokies to a 65-58 victory over No. 15 Clemson on Wednesday night.
Robinson continued his stellar play of late, scoring in double figures for the 14th time in the past 15 games for the Hokies (20-8, 9-6 Atlatntic Coast Conference), who have won six of their last eight games and moved into a tie for fourth place in the conference standings. Blackshear struggled from the floor, but was 3 for 4 on free throws in the final 33 seconds to preserve the win.
“How we manage the next 24 hours emotionally, physically, mentally . that’s going to impact Saturday,” Williams said. “The same can be said for Friday. I’ve allowed our staff to kind of step in front me because they’re better at it than me at doing that more.
“I’ve kind of just tried to help give energy to our guys. Same thing in the game tonight. Very little strategy. Not a lot of technique. I thought we won the game because of energy, and I believe that will be the case if we win (Saturday).”
Virginia Tech, which won its third straight over the Tigers (20-7, 9-6), broke open a close game midway through the second half. The Hokies trailed 38-34 after Clemson’s Marcquise Reed hit a 3-pointer with 13:43 remaining, but they went on a 10-0 run punctuated by Ahmed Hill’s layup to take the lead for good.
The Hokies led by as many as 14 with 2:33 left before the Tigers put on a furious rally. They used an 11-2 run to cut the lead to 61-56 on a 3-pointer by Gabe DeVoe with 41 seconds remaining.
Virginia Tech scored the next four points — all from the free-throw line — with Blackshear making 3 of 4 and Chris Clarke 1 of 2, which was just enough as the Tigers missed three 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds.
“It’s a big step,” Robinson said of the win. “We got a win in front of fans. We kind of talked about it before the game. We’ve got more losses here (at home) this year than the last two. I think it’s something in our pride that we took care of tonight.”
Reed paced the cold-shooting Tigers, who now have lost three straight games, with a career-high 28 points, while Elijah Thomas had his eighth double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Clemson shot just 38.6 percent from the floor (22 of 57).
“Both teams defended well and made it hard on each other to score,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought our kids competed very well. We’re just struggling to score a little bit right now.”
Clemson: The Tigers are struggling at the worst possible time, and much of their troubles can be blamed on injuries. Donte Grantham (14.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is out for the season with a torn ACL and Shelton Mitchell (11.8 ppg, team-best 96 assists) missed his second straight game with a concussion. Clemson plays great defense, but with those two guys out, it needs another scorer to emerge to go with Reed.
“It’s hard,” Brownell said. “You’ve got guys playing a little bit different positions. I don’t want to take anything away from what Virginia Tech did because those guys played great. They played hard, and they cause a lot of problems. Other teams have injuries, too, but there’s no doubt we’re not the same team we were when we had Donte and Shelton.”
Virginia Tech: The Hokies are peaking at just the right time and have put themselves in great position to make the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. Their win over the Tigers marked their third over a team in the top 10 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and their fourth top-50 win.
MITCHELL GETTING CLOSER TO RETURN
Clemson did receive some good news while in Blacksburg, as the Tigers hope to get Mitchell, their starting point guard, back into the lineup for Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.
“Hopefully he’s going to be fine,” Brownell said. “I think he had a decent day down there (in Clemson). Obviously we’ll know more when he’s involved in more contact-type stuff.”
TECH BENCH MAKES BIG STATEMENT
A big part of the game was the Hokies’ production off the bench. Virginia Tech got 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists from five bench players. In contrast, Clemson’s reserves failed to score and only grabbed one rebound.
“Honestly, I think they all need to play,” Williams said. “And I tell them, `Everybody’s playing.’ . I think (the production) speaks to the unity, to the togetherness, to the metamorphosis, to the narrative of how things thankfully going in the right direction.”
Clemson: The Tigers host Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies host Louisville on Saturday.