CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Hunter Tyson had the option to pass, drive or shoot on Clemson’s final play. Tyson chose to follow coach Brad Brownell’s main instruction in the time out with the Tigers down by two: “If you’re open, shoot it.”
Tyson did, making a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go to lift the 19th-ranked Tigers to a dramatic, 51-50 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Tyson had missed five of his previous six from behind the arc. Yet, Brownell called his number.
“They stayed confident, drew up a play for me and I shot it pretty well,” Tyson said.
Did you have any doubts it wouldn’t go in?
“No,” Tyson said with a smile.
PJ Hall had 20 points and eight rebounds while Tyson finished with 12 points and nine boards as Clemson (16-4, 8-1 ACC) continued its surprise run atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I just felt like he was going to make a play today,” Brownell said of Tyson, who had five straight double-doubles in ACC play earlier this season.
Tyson’s play helped the Tigers bounce back from their first league loss after returning to the Top 25, at Wake Forest 87-77, on Tuesday.
Brownell acknowledged it was not an “aesthetically pleasing” game — both teams shot under 39% and combined to go 9 of 40 on 3s — but his players kept up their rugged defense to keep within reach after the Hokies rallied from five down to lead in the final three minutes.
Virginia Tech was still up 50-48 on Grant Basile’s foul shot before Tyson’s big moment.
The Hokies had a final chance, but Hunter Cattoor’s 3 was off the mark and Tyson came up with the ball, holding it high as time ran out.
The sold-out crowd erupted as it had moments before as Tyson’s shot went through.
Brownell said the game was important to show Clemson, which came in averaging nearly 76 points a game, can win in different styles. “This is when you have a good team,” he said.
Clemson, which trailed 33-26 early in the second half, had regained momentum after Hall’s three-point play built a 44-39 lead with less than eight minutes left over the cold-shooting Hokies, who were in the midst of a 1-for-16 run from the field. But Michael Collins Jr.’s 3 and Basile’s inside shot tied things at 44 to set up the final stretch.
Basile, who led the Hokies with 13 points, missed the second of two foul shots with 21.5 seconds to hold a 50-48 edge.
For Virginia Tech, coach Mike Young said there’s plenty of time to regain its footing.
“You turn the page and move on with the hand we’ve been dealt,” he said.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies were way off target throughout the second half, finishing the period with only six field goals on 25% shooting. From long range, they were worse as they went just 2 of 11 behind the arc.
Clemson: The Tigers need injured junior point guard Chase Hunter back in a hurry. Without him there this week, Clemson fell at Wake Forest and was in a tight one throughout with the Hokies.
Brownell was unsure when his two injured players, Alex Hemenway and Hunter, might return. Hemenway, a senior who’s perhaps the team’s most reliable 3-point shooter, has missed the past eight game. Hunter has missed the last two. Brownell said both are expected back at some point this season, although he couldn’t pinpoint when.
Virginia Tech returns home to play Duke on Monday night.
Clemson hosts Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.