By Justin Mathis
CLEMSON, S.C. – On Thursday night, it was “90’s Night” at Littlejohn Coliseum as the 16th-ranked Clemson Tigers collided with the Pittsburgh Panthers in ACC basketball action. To go along with the theme, Clemson donned retro uniforms that honored the 1996-97 men’s basketball team.
After a sluggish start to the game, the Tigers clamped down defensively and used the perimeter game to their advantage, rolling to a 72-48 victory over Pitt, the 20th of the season for the Tigers. This also gave Clemson their fourth straight win.
In 1990, the R&B/hip hop group Bell Biv DeVoe released a single titled “Poison”. Due to his shooting from the perimeter recently, Clemson guard Gabe DeVoe has been the opposition’s poison, having made a quintet of three pointers in the past three games for the Tigers, which has led them to wins over Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Wake Forest.
“I don’t feel any pressure. I’m shooting without a conscious and not thinking about it,” DeVoe said of his recent success from behind the arc. “I’m just playing with extreme confidence. My teammates believe in me and want to give me the ball. The coaches believe in me as well.”
The reigning ACC Player of the Week scored 11 of Clemson’s first 14 points in the second half, including a trio of tries from distance. That helped the Tigers extend their 10 point halftime advantage out to twenty, 46-26, with 16:36 remaining.
DeVoe tied his career-high with 25 points, which he set in a road win at Georgia Tech on January 28th. He also set a new career-high with seven made three’s on 11 attempts, giving him 22 trifectas over the last four games. DeVoe notched his fourth straight game with at least five makes from distance, marking the first time that a Clemson player has accomplished that feat since Michael Tait during the 1986-87 campaign.
Elijah Thomas tallied his sixth double-double of the season, and eighth of his career, for Clemson with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Thomas also pulled in his 300th career rebound during the contest. Marcquise Reed, who has been battling the flu since Wednesday, played 23 minutes and had seven of the Tigers’ 17 assists on the night. Shelton Mitchell also finished in double figures with 12 points.
Overall, Clemson shot 27-for-59 from the field (45.9 percent), including a 12-for-27 (44.4 percent) clip from the arc. As a team, Clemson made at least 10 three’s for a fourth straight game. That is the first time the Tigers have done that since 1983.
“(It was) a disciplined performance by our guys,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell stated. “I was really pleased with the way we played and thought we showed really good maturity. I really thought our guys did what we wanted to do defensively and offensively, I thought we shared the ball and executed against some different defenses. You’ve got play very well in the league and non-league to get to 20 (wins). I’m just proud of our guys for how much they’ve poured into it not just during the season, but this summer and fall… twenty wins in 24 games is excellent basketball.”
With the loss, Pittsburgh drops their twelfth straight game, all of them coming since the start of ACC play on December 30th. Terrell Brown led the way with a team-high 19 points on nine of 15 shooting, the lone Panther to finish in double figures.
“We got swallowed up there pretty hard at the start of the second half,” Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings said. “They came out on fire and we didn’t react well. That’s what cost us. I didn’t think our performance was really good on either end, to be honest with you. When the game starts getting tough for us, we’ve had this tendency to go solo and our team is not made up of guys who are capable of going solo. That’s a lesson that’s coming more slowly than it needs to. We have to fix that component so that we give ourselves the best chance (to win).”
The Panthers shot 18-for-46 (39.1 percent) for the game and only made five of their 15 attempts from three point land (33.3 percent). Pitt also committed 15 turnovers.
Thursday’s victory marked the third fewest games required in program history to get to 20 wins and the fastest that Clemson has arrived at the 20 win mark under Brownell. The Tigers (20-4, 9-3 ACC) will have a couple of days off before traveling to face Florida State on Wednesday, February 14th at 7 PM.
Pittsburgh (8-17, 0-12) will return home, where they will host the Louisville Cardinals on Sunday, February 11th at 1 PM.