By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Clemson was right where it wanted to be Sunday. The Lady Tigers were making shots. They were getting steals and forcing Wake Forest into bad shots.
When Chanice Dunn’s layup pulled them within four points of Wake Forest with 10:07 to play, it appeared everything was in place for the Lady Tigers to snap a four-game losing streak. Then the Demon Deacons got hot.
First, Millesa Calicott drained a three-pointer from the left wing. On the next trip down the floor, Chelsea Douglas hit one from the right side. When Secily Ray hit a back-door layup on the next possession, Wake was back up 10 points with 8:45 to play and never looked back in a 63-51 victory at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“That took the air out of our balloons,” Clemson Head Coach Itoro Coleman said. “I know we had fought so hard to come back and we got within four, which was good. Then when we gave up those two threes, I felt like the effort after that dropped. We didn’t give as much as we could have because they were still worrying about that.”
When the Lady Tigers finally came back around, Wake Forest (16-11, 6-8 ACC) extended its lead to as many as 16 points.
The Demon Deacons went a strange route in getting the double-digit victory, which was their fourth in the last five games. Wake Forest dominated the glass by out-rebounding the Tigers 52-40, including a 22-17 advantage on the offensive glass. However, the Deacons shot only 30.2 percent on two-point field goals, but turned around and made 47.6 percent of their attempts from behind the arc (10-21), including 62.5 percent in the second half (5-8).
Coleman said all of that comes back to the offensive glass, where Wake Forest outscored the Lady Tigers 20-4 on second-chance points.
“We have to fix that second-chance rebounding,” she said. “If we limit their second-chance opportunities, then we have more possessions on offense. I thought Wake Forest did a good job going to the boards. They did an unbelievable job.
“Their offensive rebounding really hurt us.”
What also hurt Clemson (6-19, 2-12) were the times in the game in which it could not make a basket. Stretching over the last 9:26 in the first half and the first 2:10 of the second, the Lady Tigers did not make a field goal. That stretch allowed Wake to go on a 12-1 run for a 32-21 lead.
The Demon Deacons then upped their lead to 37-23 on a Lindsy Wright basket with 16:36 to go before Clemson made its impressive 18-8 run to pull it within four at 45-41. During their run, the Lady Tigers could not miss a basket. They got seven straight points from Shaniqua Pauldo at one point, a three-pointer from Kelly Gramlich, a jump shot from Quinyotta Pettaway and layups from Chelsea Lindsay and Dunn.
Then they went cold again as Wake used a 16-4 run during a six-minute stretch to put the game away.
“There was no reason. We were just not in an offensive flow,” Coleman said. “When we pushed it, especially against their press, we had numbers and we took advantage of that in the second half. But, we got a little anxious, I thought, a little bit on offense. We could have made an extra pass or we could have gone inside a little more.
“We settled for a lot of outside shots. I felt like we could have got the ball inside, whether it was on the dribble or passing it inside to the post.”
Pettaway led the Tigers with 10 points and 11 rebounds. It was her fourth double-double of the season. Pauldo finished with nine points, while Nikki Dixon added eight points and had a career-high seven steals, which is also a season-high for the squad.
Despite the loss, Coleman was pleased with the Lady Tigers’ overall effort, especially since they were coming off a heartbreaking 56-53 loss at Boston College on Thursday night.
“They played a lot harder today and they responded after what happened the other night,” the Clemson coach said. “Losing to Boston College was hard because we gave up a lead and really lost the game in the last minute. For them to come out today and fight the way that they did, I can’t fault that effort.”