CLEMSON — Once Jordan Roper quit thinking, his game flourished. And it couldn’t come at a better time for Clemson.
Roper had 21 points off five 3-pointers to lead the Tigers to a 75-54 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday. Clemson (15-10, 7-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) finished with a season high 11 3-pointers to win for the fifth time in seven games — all since Roper was moved into the starting lineup.
Roper had scored a total of 76 points in Clemson’s first 18 games. He’s scored 100 in the past seven.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell met with Roper about a month ago, telling the junior shooter he was worrying too much about whether he was playing the point or solely working as a two-guard.
“It was seeping into other parts of his game,” Brownell said. “He just didn’t feel right. That’s all confidence. Once he starting playing a little harder, not worrying about things as much, he started playing better.”
That was evident against Virginia Tech. Roper hit five of his six tries from long distance. He made three as Clemson opened up with a 19-4 run. The other two came in a stretch to start the second half as the Tigers extended a 19-point halftime lead to 58-24 before the period’s first time out.
“I just try and play with a lot more energy, more effort,” Roper said. “Whether it’s starting or off the bench. When I’m out there, I just want to play as hard as I can.”
Clemson’s 11 3-pointers were a season high and one shy of the most long-range baskets hit in a game in coach Brad Brownell’s five seasons.
Jaron Blossomgame had 14 points and two 3-pointers for the Tigers.
Virginia Tech ((10-15, 2-10) had rallied from 10 points down to beat Georgia Tech 65-63 in its last game. The Hokies had no chance to climb from this hole as Clemson pushed the lead to 35 points in the second half.
Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said one win in a season full of disappointments does not erase the problems that have cropped up.
“You’ve lost so many times, it’s not like (the win) lingers around for very long,” he said.
Malik Muller led Virginia Tech with 17 points off five 3-pointers.
Clemson’s points were a season high in ACC play this year.
Virginia Tech’s troubles away from home continued. The Hokies lost their sixth straight road game in the ACC this season. They are 1-9 this year outside of their arena, the lone win coming at the Cancun Challenge in November over Miami of Ohio.
Adam Smith, Virginia Tech’s leading scorer coming in, had 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies started a difficult five-game stretch at Clemson. They have road games at Miami, North Carolina State and Virginia. The one home game in that sequence? Against Duke.
Clemson: Tigers point guard Rod Hall played all 40 minutes in the 60-58 loss to No. 10 Notre Dame on Tuesday night. It was the first time a player’s done that since Cliff Hammonds went the whole game against Boston College in 2007. Hall played 31 minutes against Virginia Tech.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell was asked whether the team’s success has opened up talk of the NCAA tournament. Clemson is among seven ACC teams with above .500 records in league play, yet Brownell understands his team would need a strong finish to impress selectors. “Guys know where things stand,” he said. “We’ve been on the outside looking in for a while.”
Clemson has not reached the NCAAs since Brownell’s first season in 2010-2011.
When Donte Grantham put in a short jumper with 15:44 left, it gave Clemson a 60-25 lead — an unheard of margin in the grind-it-out, back-and-forth ACC style of today. It brought a smile to Tigers coach Brad Brownell. “Haven had that,” he joked. “It was an interesting feeling.”
Virginia Tech continues its road swing at Miami on Wednesday night.
Clemson plays at Georgia Tech on Monday night.