CLEMSON – Clemson University guard Jordan Roper did not hesitate.
The first five times he touched the ball Saturday, he instantly fired a shot. His teammates did not mind, because each time Roper pulled with that quick release, the ball spun through the nets.
Roper’s early barrage included a trio of 3-pointers. He scored 11 consecutive points through the first four minutes. He closed the game with 21 points and paced Clemson to a 75-54 victory against Virginia Tech in Littlejohn Coliseum.
“I just saw openings,” Roper said. “I wanted to come out and be aggressive like each game. Shots were falling.”
Roper finished 8-for-11 from the field, regardless of how well Virginia Tech defended him.
“He’s like the best at shooting a contested shot,” Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame said. “He makes those type of shots. Those are good shots for him. If anybody else shoots those shots, they’re not good shots.”
Roper scored 13 points in the season opener. He did not reach double figures again until Jan. 24 when he recorded his first start of the season. He has started the six subsequent games.
Clemson hosts Virginia Tech Saturday, February 14, 2015 at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum.
Roper averaged merely 4.2 points through the 18 games before his promotion. Since joining the starting lineup, Roper has averaged 14.3 points per game.
“He’s played better the last month, and it’s really helped our team,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “You need a day like this where you make shots.”
Through its first 24 games, Clemson converted merely 29.9 percent of its 3-point attempts, the second lowest rate in the Atlantic Coast Conference. On Saturday, Clemson opened each half 5-for-5 from 3-point range. The Tigers finished with 11 3-pointers. Their previous season high was eight.
Conversely, Virginia Tech entered the game with a 3-point percentage of .379, the second highest rate in the ACC. Clemson narrowly held the Hokies under that mark. Virginia Tech converted 34.8 percent from 3-point range.
The Tigers fought over high screens and rarely settled for switches. They disrupted passing lanes and denied penetration. Through the first 26 minutes, the Hokies managed merely nine field goals.
Virginia Tech closed the game with 12 points in the paint, eight of which it posted after Clemson had extended the margin to 31 points early in the second half.
Clemson has surrendered fewer than 60 points in eight of its last nine games. The only exception was the 60-58 loss Clemson suffered to No. 10 Notre Dame on Tuesday night.
Clemson improved its overall record to 15-10, including a 7-6 mark in the ACC. The Tigers will visit Georgia Tech on Monday night.