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No. 21 Clemson, Virginia Tech meet riding two-game skids

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Wednesday’s ACC matchup between No. 21 Clemson and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., features two teams eager to bounce back after disappointing starts to the new year.

Clemson (11-3, 1-2) was off to its best start in six seasons before it unraveled in the second half in a loss at Miami on Wednesday and then struggled to score in a 65-55 home defeat against then-No. 8 North Carolina on Saturday.

The Tigers shot just 1 for 18 on 3-pointers against Tar Heels and went scoreless over the final five minutes.

“You can’t go 1 for 18 and win the game,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “There’s just no way to overcome that. I thought we did a solid job of defending. If you were to tell me we held them to 65 points, I certainly would have taken that.”

Highlighting the offensive woes for Clemson was a combined 5-for-23 shooting — and 0 for 9 from three — from PJ Hall and Joseph Girard III, its top two scorers.

Hall, who averages 19.5 points per game, is 1 for 10 on 3-pointers and has fouled out in each of the last two Clemson losses.

“(PJ) knows that we need him,” Brownell said. “You’re going to have one or two fouls just because of the nature of the position, but you can’t have the silly ones. I thought his first foul was a real soft play on his part. Disappointed in that one because it got him off to a poor start in a game of that magnitude.”

Girard, who has 339 career triples in 4 1/2 seasons at Syracuse and Clemson, didn’t connect on a 3-pointer for the first time since Nov. 29, 2022. The fifth-year sharpshooter is second on the team at 15 points per game.

Having dropped five spots in the polls, the Tigers look to hang on to their ranking.

Meanwhile, the Hokies (9-5, 1-2) return home for the first time since Dec. 21 after two ACC road losses.

After a 23-point blowout at Wake Forest on Dec. 30, the Hokies dropped a 77-74 heartbreaker at Florida State on Saturday.

Virginia Tech rallied from a 10-point deficit with just over two minutes left before fouling Seminoles guard Primo Spears, who made two game-winning free throws with 1.2 seconds left.

“We did everything but win the game,” Hokies head coach Mike Young said. “We gave ourselves a shot. Proud of our bunch hanging in there and fighting all the way to the end.”

Virginia Tech led by three points at the break before Florida State outscored the Hokies 50-44 in the second half.

“We allowed 27 points in the first half, did a nice job,” Young said. “But then 50 in the second half. (Florida State) put their heads down, drove the ball and we fouled too much. I also thought we had some turnovers that were head-scratchers.”

Sean Pedulla led the Hokies with 26 points, while the school’s all-time leading 3-point shooter, Hunter Cattoor, added 19 points on five triples. Cattoor is averaging 14.4 points per game, just behind Lynn Kidd (15.3).

Clemson has won three of the last four matchups, including a two-game sweep of Virginia Tech last season.

–Field Level Media

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