Kelly makes history as Jackets split games

Junior guard Miles Kelly (left) prepares to drive towarsd the rim against Clemson. During the game, Kelly became the first Jacket to score 1000 career points since Michael Devoe in 2021-22. // Photo by Vivin Sudharsan Student Publications

Coming off an impressive home victory over Syracuse, the Jackets squared off against another orange team, the Clemson Tigers, on Wednesday night in McCamish Pavilion. Earlier in the season, Tech defeated the Tigers at Littlejohn Coliseum in a double overtime thriller. If the Jackets wanted the season sweep,  they were going to need lots of production from freshman guard Naithan George and keep the  Tigers off the offensive glass. 

The Tigers pounced early, drilling threes left and right to build an early 23-9 advantage. This was not the first time the Jackets had found themselves down early in ACC contests. Notably, the Jackets were down double-digits against UNC before coming back and upsetting the Tar Heels. However, this  game bore more similarities to  the Jackets blowout loss against Wake Forest a couple of weeks back. 

After Clemson took the large opening lead, Tech tried  to start a run and claw back into the game, but the Tigers would reestablish their lead as soon as Tech started to build any sort of momentum. With seven minutes to go in the second half, a jumper from George shrank the lead to just six points, but then the Tigers went on a 13-4 run and Tech found themselves down by 12 points heading into half. Tech shot a mediocre 35% from the field and 38% from three while the Tigers shot both 50% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, including nine threes. Junior forward Ian Schieffelin led the Tigers with 13 points in the opening half but  none of Tech’s scorers had above seven points. 

Any hopes to claw back into the contest were shot in the second half. If Tech was cold in the first half, they were frigid in the second. Tech put up eight threes and only hit one of them, shooting a  mere 24% from the floor. 

Unlike the Jackets, the Tigers kept up their terrific first half, capitalizing on another half of good shooting and continued to lengthen their lead. Even though the Jackets struggled as a team in the second half, junior forward Miles Kelly hit a career milestone as he tallied two free throws to reach the 1000 career points mark. He became the 48th Jacket to do so, but could not keep them from
falling to Clemson 81 to 57.  Coming off the disappointing home loss, the Jackets traveled down to Coral Gables, Fla. to face the Miami Hurricanes in a battle of two struggling ACC teams. 

Miami came into the matchup 6-10 in the ACC and in desperate need of a win over the Jackets to secure a first round bye in the ACC Tournament. Both teams started the game off strong, especially as Tech drilled 11 threes in the first half to Miami’s nine makes. Coming off his historic accomplishment last week, Kelly used that momentum to put together one of his best performances of the year. In the first half alone,  he made four threes and tallied 14 points to lead the Jackets in first-half scoring. 

Even with this stellar play, the Jackets still entered the second half trailing 45-49 and in need fora second-half comeback in order to pull a game closer in the ACC standings. The Jackets opened on a 9-0 run and followed it later with a 12-2 run to extend their sudden lead to 12. 

Soon, the Jackets had a 76-63 advantage and looked like they were going to cruise to a victory. 

However, Miami coach Jim Larrañaga’s squad started to full court press. The five guard lineup proved to be a great decision and the Canes started to claw back into the ballgame. After not scoring for nearly six minutes, senior Kyle Sturdivant hit a couple of free throws to make it a two possession game. Even after a last minute three, Sturdivant sealed the game with another pair of free throws to make it 80-76.

Tech takes on the Florida State Seminoles this Saturday, Mar. 2 at noon in McCamish Pavilion. This is the Jackets’ last home game of the season before the Jackets finish the regular season out against Wake Forest on Tuesday, Mar. 5 and Virginia on Saturday, Mar. 9.