By Christian Bockhop
The men’s basketball team started off strong at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, only to fall in the second half to the No. 13 Clemson Tigers in Tech’s twelfth loss to an ACC team this season. The Jackets came out swinging in the first half, enjoying a 15-point lead just ten minutes into the game. Unfortunately for Tech, an All-Star performance by senior guard Lewis Clinch was not enough to snap the Jackets’ now six-game losing streak, leaving the Jackets with a 10-15 record.
Both Tech and Clemson shot 50.9 percent from the field, sinking 27-for-53. This was a 10 percent improvement for Tech over last Wednesday’s loss to Wake Forest. The game ultimately became a three-point shooting contest with Clemson going 12-for-23 compared to the Jackets’ six-for-11.
The first half started with freshman guard Imam Shumpert assisting sophomore forward Gani Lawal in sinking a jumper to put Tech on the board. Lawal got the rebound after Clemson center Raymond Sykes missed from the field. This set up Tech for a quick succession of threes and jumpers by Clinch and junior forward Zachery Peacock to make the score 10-5, with the Jackets looking much more energized than they have in the past few games. Despite pressure from Clemson’s defense, Lawal and senior forward Alade Aminu were able to make multiple layups.
After a layup by Aminu with eight minutes left in the half and a score of 29-15, Tech’s luck turned for the worse.
“They came down and scored on eight or nine straight possessions. [We] just didn’t have the same energy level defensively,” said Head Coach Paul Hewitt.
With 11 unanswered points by the Tigers to tie the game at 29, Aminu fired back with a massive dunk and a layup to finish out the half with the Jackets and Tigers tied again at 33. As the game headed into halftime, there was a notable downturn in the morale of the Tech faithful.
At the start of the second half, Clemson guard K.C. Rivers fired off a three from the top of the arc and 40 seconds later scored again after a turnover by Shumpert. With those 5 points Clemson took the lead and never gave it up. Despite the Tigers’ growing momentum, Clinch performed amazingly well, sinking four more threes.
“We made an emphasis in the locker room really trying to make contact with [Clinch]. He got the separation he needed, and he made shots,” Hewitt said.
The scene at Alexander Memorial Coliseum became dismal, however, in the last few minutes of the game. With 1:51 left, Clemson forward Trevor Booker dunked the ball, giving the Tigers a 75-65 lead and ending all realistic hopes of Tech making a comeback. With Jackets fans leaving in droves, the cheers of some 1,500 Clemson fans reverberated around the stands.
Ultimately, the game came down to the inability of Tech’s players to convert around the basket.
“I think that’s where the lead went. We had some easy opportunities. That happens. You can’t just put your head down. You have to come back and get stops. That’s where we’re disappointed as a staff and as a team. We didn’t get those stops after those opportunities,” Hewitt said.
With the 10-15 record, the rest of the season looks bleak for the Yellow Jackets.
“We’re not going to quit,” Clinch said. “We’re going to keep battling, keep motivated in a tough situation like this. Collectively, we’re still together and still a team.”