Clemson's Tigers are beginning to show signs of a frontcourt transformation.
Brad Brownell is hoping the trend continues as the Tigers try for their third ACC victory in four games, and their second straight on the road, when they play Virginia Tech on Wednesday at 7 p.m., at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg.
A perimeter-centered team throughout the first third of the season, the Tigers got strong complementary performances from sophomore center Landry Nnoko and freshman forward Jaron Blossomgame in their 72-59 victory over No. 16 Duke on Saturday.
Tigers head to VT
Blossomgame, who's still working his way back into form after being sidelined for more than a year with a broken leg, had his best performance yet as a Tiger, with career highs of 14 points and 14 rebounds. He was named ACC rookie of the week on Monday.
Nnoko, meanwhile, recorded his third double-double of the season, with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and continues to emerge as a reliable contributor on both ends of the court.
“Landry is a good defender as a post player,” Brownell said. “His ability to move his feet and help on ball-screen defense and get back in transition, and his willingness to play and take pride in defense at a significant level is helping this team.
“He's a little more active and a little longer even than Devin Booker last year. I think an integral part is him just being consistently better. I'm really proud of him and the way he's playing.”
Brownell said Blossomgame broke through against Duke with the confidence-building performance he's been waiting to see.
“Jaron got into a good rhythm and got off to a good start,” Brownell said. “He's been through a lot, with his two surgeries and some rust from not playing and from not practicing much for some of last year.
“He's done some good things in practice, and had had some games where he played reasonably well. But he hadn't shot the ball well in games, and we knew that he's a better shooter. We were kind of waiting for him to make a couple in a game, and on Saturday that certainly proved to be a significant factor.”
Blossomgame ready to step up
Coming off 14 points, 14 rebounds v. ...
Brownell sees improving team balance, with the play of Nnoko and Blossomgame adding to the contributions of wing K.J. McDaniels and guards Rod Hall, Jordan Roper, Adonis Filer and Damarcus Harrison.
The Tigers, 11-4, have a chance for a program rarity when they play at Virginia Tech Wednesday night. Just 10 times in Clemson history have the Tigers won consecutive ACC road games. And they'll be trying for their first 3-1 ACC start under Brownell.
Their opponent is an up-and-down, 8-7 Virginia Tech team that was picked to finished last in the ACC, but has played competitively in a league-opening 61-60 overtime victory over Miami, a 20-point loss to No. 2 Syracuse, and a three-point setback to Boston College.
Clemson has a two-point win over BC and a 15-point loss to Florida State to go with its victory over Duke.
Brownell said the Tigers will need to keep track of Virginia Tech's potent three-point shooters if they're going to play the game on their terms.
“Virginia Tech is a terrific three-point shooting team, and Jerrell Eddie is a guy who's been through the wars,” Brownell said. “He and Adam Smith Smith and Ben Emelogu can really shoot the ball. There's a danger there against a team like that, because if they're making threes, the game can get away from you and they can get confidence.
“A big part of our game will be knowing where their perimeter players are.”
Eddie leads the Hokies with 16.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, while freshman guards Devin Wilson and Emelogu have combined for 18.8 points per contest.
The game will match strength against strength. Virginia Tech's .407 three-point shooting ranks second in the ACC to Duke, while Clemson leads the nation in three-point percentage defense at .246. In its victory over Duke on Saturday, Clemson held the Blue Devils to 3-of-14 (21.4 percent) three-point shooting in the second half.
Clemson leads the ACC in both field goal percentage defense (.359) and scoring defense (53.9), with its scoring defense mark also leading the nation.
The Tigers and Hokies split their two meetings last season, with Clemson winning 77-70 at Littlejohn Coliseum and Virginia Tech winning 69-61 on senior day in Blacksburg. The teams are 3-3 in their last six meetings.