Booker battles flu-like symptoms in defeat of Hokies

Clemson forward Milton Jennings celebrates after the Tigers defeated Virginia Tech.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson forward Milton Jennings celebrates after the Tigers defeated Virginia Tech.

CLEMSON – Milton Jennings has endured his share of frustrating performances, but the one he turned in Sunday in Clemson’s 77-70 victory over Virginia Tech was certainly not one of them.

Jennings had 28 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots, and his 16-of-18 showing from the foul line ultimately proved to be the difference.

“I’m really happy for Milton because he’s worked very hard,” Tiger coach Brad Brownell said. “I’ve said many times I think he’s criticized probably more than he should be. In games like today, he was the difference maker. If he misses a couple of those free throws, then the game turns.

“I was really pleased for him.”

PLAYING SICK

Devin Booker had 10 rebounds on Sunday but it was astonishing that the Tiger center was able to make it out onto the floor at all. He has been dealing with flu-like symptoms and Sunday might have been his toughest day.

The fact that he came out and made a major contribution to his team’s win impressed Jennings.

“When you have a man who has a 103 temperature and woke up this morning thinking he had pink eye, but then going out and doing what he did, man, that’s amazing,” Jennings said. “We had to step up and help him out”

That they did.

“I was happy to see the guys play like they did when Book was feeling under the weather and not himself,” Brownell said. “It was a good way for our team to win one.”

HOMECOMING, SORTA

Calling James Johnson’s return to Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday a “homecoming” is a bit of stretch but, technically, it was.

Johnson, an assistant coach at Virginia Tech for five seasons, left Blacksburg in April, 2012, to take a similar post at Clemson. But when Seth Greenberg was fired as head coach of the Hokies four days after Johnson came to the Tigers, there was speculation Johnson might be a candidate for the top job at the program he just left.

“I’m sure (rumors) may be out there, but I’m here, I’m happy to be here at Clemson and I’m very fortunate that Brad saw the things he saw in me to offer me the position as an assistant coach on his staff and have the opportunity to work with him,” Johnson said at the time.

Turns out Johnson’s stay at Clemson lasted a grand total of 12 days.

One week after Greenberg was dismissed Johnson took his place, and is now in his first season guiding the fortunes of Virginia Tech hoops.

Johnson didn’t sound like it was an emotional return to his old digs.

“I didn’t feel anything. It wasn’t much feeling at all,” Johnson said after his team’s loss. “I came in here to coach my team and try to get a win tonight.”

SPEAKING OF HOMECOMING

Sunday’s game was part of Clemson’s annual alumni weekend, with 70 former players, coaches, managers and trainers honored during halftime of the contest.

COACHES VS. CANCER

Both Clemson and Virginia Tech took part in the “Suits and Sneakers” initiative of the Coaches vs. Cancer program on Sunday.

The simple fashion statement was made by coaches across the country this weekend, and is designed to raise awareness about the fight against cancer, encourage exercise and diet as a way to reduce risk of the disease and promote the American Cancer Society as a place where people facing cancer can turn to any time, any day.

Coaches vs. Cancer is a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).

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