CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Brad Brownell was grateful his team set a record with its 11th Atlantic Coast Conference victory. He also hopes the mark doesn’t last too long.
“It’s something players will remember for a long time. It’s good to talk about,” said Brownell after the 18th-ranked Tigers defeated Florida State 76-63 on Wednesday night. “Hopefully, it’s a record that will be broken again.”
Maybe come Saturday when the surprising Tigers, picked for 13th in the preseason poll, try and secure a top-four seed in the ACC Tournament at Syracuse.
“There’s opportunity there to continue to build and that’s what this team has done,” he said.
Marcquise Reed scored 22 points, 13 in the second half, as the Tigers (22-7, 11-6) finished the game on a 34-18 run to finish 15-1 at Littlejohn Coliseum this season.
“It’s a special year here,” Clemson senior Gabe DeVoe said. “Being able to win close games, it’s been a year all about us and we’ve been able to handle it.”
The Tigers had won 10 league games six times in 64 years as ACC members, but have never before won this many conference games in a regular season. And they did it with late rallies in both halves.
Clemson trailed 24-16 in the opening half before closing the period on a 21-8 charge. Florida State clawed back to lead 45-42 midway through the second half before the Tigers took over with the closing surge.
Florida State (19-10, 8-9) closed to 64-61 on Phil Cofer’s 3-pointer with 2:58 remaining, but got no closer.
DeVoe had 13 points while Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas had 11 points each for the Tigers, who took another step toward earning a top four seed in next week’s ACC Tournament. Clemson came into the game tied for fourth with North Carolina State. The Wolfpack play at Georgia Tech on Thursday night.
Cofer led the Seminoles with 21 points. Florida State’s leading scorer, Terance Mann, had an awful shooting night as he went 1 of 9 from the field for three points, 10 fewer than his average.
Reed, in his second year since transferring from Robert Morris, has become the Tigers’ late-game closer. He had nine points in the last 4 minutes as Clemson broke open a tight, back-and-forth contest.
“It’s a role that I’ve accepted,” Reed said. “My teammates have allowed me to do it and the coaching staff has leaned on me.”
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said Reed’s timely play thwarted the Seminoles from a comeback. “He overpowered us and didn’t let us get momentum,” Hamilton said.
Florida State: The Seminoles are long, strong and athletic, but struggled to get rebounds with only 12 in the opening 20 minutes. Florida State has a 3.8 rebounding margin this season, but got outrebounded 20-12 by the Tigers. Only Trent Forrest and Braian Angola had more than one board for the Seminoles. The Tigers wound up winning the battle of the boards, 39-30. That must improve if Florida State hopes to make noise in the postseason.
Clemson: It may be a simplification of things for the Tigers, but when they make shots they can beat anybody. When they miss, they can lose to anyone. That was on display against Florida State as Clemson shot just 8 of 24 and fell behind 24-16. Over the final 6 minutes of the opening half, they went 4 of 7 as part of 21-8 run to lead 35-32 at the break. Clemson made 11 of 26 field goals in the second half to crawl past 40 percent shooting for the game.
Clemson has turned around a disappointing stat from last season — prevailing in close games. The Tigers were 2-8 last year in ACC games decided by five points or less. This year, Clemson is 4-2 is such games. Brownell said his players have shown a poise and maturity to keep achieving no matter the circumstances. “These are the things good teams do to win. We sacrifice and we practice hard,” he said. “When you see young people giving so much and being selfless and sacrificing like they are, to have them have this kind of success is what you want to see.”
Florida State 7-foot freshman Ike Obiagu followed up his six blocks in his last game against North Carolina State with five blocks against Clemson. Hamilton said Obiagu is far ahead of most other big men at this early stage than Florida State has had before. “He’s really comfortable. He understands our system offensively and defensively,” Hamilton said.
Florida State closes the regular season at home against Boston College on Saturday.
Clemson travels to Syracuse on Saturday.