WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A dominant first-half performance by Delicia Washington and a clutch second-half showing by Kendall Spray culminated in the Tigers earning a hard-fought road win on Sunday. Clemson staved off a late comeback attempt by the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and came away with a 69-66 victory at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Clemson (10-6, 5-6) shot efficiently from the floor, making 50.9 percent of its field goal attempts. Wake Forest (8-7, 4-3) connected on 10 3-point attempts and finished with a field goal percentage of 47.3. The Tigers made six treys and convincingly won the rebounding battle 37-18. In addition to racking up 36 points in the paint, Clemson tabbed 15 bench points while limiting the Demon Deacons’ bench to just two points.
Pouring in 15 points in the first half, Washington was a force to be reckoned with prior to halftime. Overall, she went 8-for-16 from the field and attained 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Spray, on the other hand, was held scoreless in the first half but totaled 16 points in the second half, 12 of which were scored via four 3-pointers. Gabby Elliott made 6-of-9 shot attempts to give her 12 points, and Mikayla Hayes, who scored six points, and Amari Robinson, who scored seven points, grabbed seven boards apiece. Wake Forest’s Jewel Spear recorded a game-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
Washington came out firing in the first quarter, knocking down multiple jumpers and tallying eight points in the opening period. Wake Forest went on a 5-0 run to close out the first and took a 20-15 lead into the second. Weronika Hipp provided the Tigers with a spark by netting a three-ball to begin the second-quarter scoring. Hipp sank a jumper a few possessions later, and a 3-point play by Washington soon after that gave the Tigers a 23-22 advantage. Elliott hit a jump shot in the final seconds of the quarter, and Clemson headed into the intermission up 36-33.
Coming off a 21-point second quarter, the Tigers notched 18 points in the third quarter. Kendall Spray had the hot hand out of halftime, scoring eight straight Clemson points in the early goings of the second half. The Tigers led by as many as seven points in the third, and Elliott once again came up clutch on the last possession of the quarter, making a layup that resulted in Clemson entering the fourth quarter leading 54-48.
With 6:53 remaining, a Washington assist set up an Elliott lay-in, which provided the Tigers with a seven-point lead. Shortly thereafter, Amari Robinson scored a second-chance layup after corralling an offensive rebound. The Demon Deacons trailed 60-51 at that point but were able to trim their deficit down to one, as a Wake Forest 3-pointer made the score 61-60 with 4:17 on the game clock. Spray shifted the momentum back in Clemson’s favor with a trey at the 3:46 mark. She then placed the Tigers ahead by five with 2:30 remaining via another shot from beyond the arc. With 18 seconds left, a pair of free throws by Spray made the score 69-66, and, following a frenetic finish, that ended up serving as the final tally.
The Tigers will remain on the road for their next outing on Thursday, Feb. 4. Clemson will be aiming for a season split against the Georgia Tech (9-3, 7-2), as the Tigers will square off against the Yellow Jackets for the second time in the past month. Set to tip off at 7 p.m., the tilt at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta will air on ACC Network Extra.
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Head Coach Amanda Butler
Opening statement:“I’m tremendously proud of our toughness and our ability, in the biggest moments, to execute. In the biggest moments, we got the stops, made the plays and, most importantly, got the rebounds. When you win the battle of the boards like that, good things are going to happen. This was a tremendous team effort.”
On the keys to the game:“That was a senior’s response by Kendall [Spray] in the second half. Delicia [Washington] really carried us through the first half. The last three quarters really favored us and our toughness and rebounding.”
On her takeaways from the win:“Everybody contributed in their own, unique way. Mikayla [Hayes] was tremendous today. she really battled and got some big rebounds. Weronika [Hipp] stepped up and a made a couple of important shots. It was a true team win in every facet.”