By Justin Mathis
CLEMSON, S.C. – On Thursday night, the Clemson Tigers looked to close out the home portion of their 2017-18 campaign by making program history, while also staying in the running for a top four seed in the ACC tournament, as they collided with the Florida State Seminoles for the second time this season.
In the end, a second half rally, sparked by Marcquise Reed, helped lead 18th-ranked Clemson to a 76-63 victory over Florida State. The win over the Seminoles allowed the Tigers to finish with a 15-1 record at Littlejohn Coliseum for the season and also marked the first time that Clemson has won 11 games in men’s basketball program history as a member of the ACC.
This also makes the second time that the Tigers have won 11 conference games in a single season, with the first instance taking place during the 1951-52 season as members of the Southern Conference.
Clemson jumped out to a three point advantage within the first eight minutes of the game. Moments later, PJ Savoy knocked down a three pointer to tie it up at 12 and sparked a 10-0 run for the Seminoles, which propelled them to a 19-12 lead with eight and a half minutes remaining in the opening frame.
After a pair of Clemson free throws and a three from FSU’s Phil Cofer, the two clubs were deadlocked at 32 until Shelton Mitchell drained a triple just before the horn to give the Tigers a 35-32 lead at the break.
“(This is) a terrific end to our season here at Littlejohn,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our guys – 11 ACC wins and 15-1 at home this year. It was a very challenging game for us. Florida State was ready to play – a high energy team that came in here really locked in. I thought our guys again played well and made big time shots down the stretch, did a better job taking care of the ball, rebounded it well against a big, strong, athletic team. In the last 10 minutes of the game, I thought we played good basketball.”
After a CJ Walker layup put the Seminoles ahead by two, Marcquise Reed hit a jumper on Clemson’s next possession, tying the contest at 47. On the next trip down the floor for the Tigers, Clyde Trapp launched a corner triple that hit the rim, bounced off the top of the backboard, then hit the rim two more times before falling through, giving Clemson a 50-47 lead with 10:05 left.
“I thought Clemson did a real good job of maintaining their poise, especially in the second half,” Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton remarked. “I thought the difference was they gave the ball to (Marcquise) Reed in the critical parts (of the game) when they had to have a basket. They don’t seem to get rattled… you can just see it with their body language. One thing about the ACC is you don’t have a lot of time to have a pity party because there’s another great team right around the corner. If you spend a lot of time worrying about your past, you’re sure not going to do anything at all about the present.”
Florida State trimmed the Tigers’ advantage down to two points on a couple of occasions, but guard Marcquise Reed made sure the Seminoles never got any closer as he hit a couple of jumpers that extended Clemson’s advantage to six, 64-58, with 3:17 remaining.
A couple of moments later, Shelton Mitchell hit a wide open three with 1:31 to go, which put the Tigers ahead 68-61 at that juncture of the contest. Clemson closed out the game with a 12-2 run over the last two minutes and 23 seconds of game action to provide the final margin.
Another big key for Clemson was cutting down on the turnovers, only committing nine on Wednesday night. The Tigers committed 21 turnovers in the first meeting with the Seminoles.
“My teammates rely on me a lot and the coaching staff believes in me,” Reed stated. “I just accepted a (leadership) role and try to bring that leadership (every game). They do a good job of trying to throw you out of rhythm (offensively)… we practiced and prepared for it all week, so we got used to their pressure and we didn’t make the same mistakes as last game (in Tallahassee).”
Reed finished with a game-high 22 points to lead Clemson, followed by Gabe DeVoe with 13 points. Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas also finished in double figures, scoring 11 points apiece for the Tigers.
Phil Cofer led Florida State with a team-high 21 points on 7 for 14 shooting, including a 5 for 9 mark from distance. Braian Angola was the only other Seminole to notch double figures, scoring 11 points.
Clemson (22-7, 11-6 ACC) will finish the regular season with a road game against Syracuse on Saturday, March 3rd at 2 PM. Florida State (19-10, 8-9) will return home, where they will face Boston College on Saturday at 2 PM.