Clemson rode its defense to a 63-49 victory over Wake Forest Saturday in front of a sold out Littlejohn Coliseum.
Head coach Brad Brownell stresses the importance of team defense, and Saturday it stole the show. Clemson has gotten progressively better, particular in the interior, at staying grounded rather than falling for shot fakes. By doing this the defender keeps their eyes on the ball and is able to cause deflections with their arms. Countless entry passes were deflected and scooped up for fast-break, easy basket opportunities for the Tigers. Clemson recorded 11 steals and perhaps more importantly turned those into 14 points off turnovers. Wake Forest shot only 34% from the field, and was held to their second lowest point total this season.
Senior Jerai Grant led the Tigers with 14 points, 7 boards, and 4 blocks while Devin Booker posted a double double with 10 points and 10 boards. Demontez Stitt scored 14 and harassed opposing guards all afternoon, but also committed 4 turnovers of his own while dishing only 2 assists. Andre Young shot 1-9 from the field, including 0-5 from beyond the arc, watching his ACC-best 28 game streak with a made 3-pointer come to an end.
The Tigers shot 43% overall and 33% (6-18) from 3. Wake Forest won the rebounding battle 38-37, but Clemson won in assists 18-11. This was Clemson’s first victory over Wake Forest since the 2007-2008 season. The Tigers held their opponent to 50 points or less for the 6th time this season, and lead the ACC in scoring defense, allowing 60 ppg.
Clemson moves to 19-9 overall and 8-6 in the ACC. The Tigers remain on the “bubble” with two games remaining. Wednesday they travel to Durham for a 9:00 showdown with Duke on ESPN. Saturday March 5 the Tigers host Virginia Tech at 12:00 on ESPN to close out the regular season.
Wake Forest falls to 8-21 on the season and 1-13 in the ACC. The Deacons started 3 freshman, a sophomore, and 1 senior. Head coach Jeff Bzdelik is in his first season at the helm. They host Georgia Tech March 3 before traveling to Boston College March 6 to close out the regular season.