GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP)The Clemson Tigers began attacking the hole, then charged into the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
Struggling from 3-point range, the eighth-seeded Tigers used strong drives and 18-of-19 shooting from the free-throw line – all of those coming in the second half – to defeat ninth-seeded Miami 69-64 on Wednesday.
Al-Amir Dawes scored 18 points, Aamir Simms added 14 points and 10 rebounds and John Newman had 11 points for Clemson, which avenged an overtime loss to the Hurricanes on New Year’s Eve.
”They were packed in defensively and all we had to do was move the ball and find that gap,” Dawes said of Clemson’s strategy in the second half. ”And when we did just attack it, look for our teammates and make plays.”
Said Clemson coach Brad Brownell: ”The free throws were big. We made a lot of drives and cuts. We made aggressive plays.”
In what amounted to a 3-point shooting contest for most of the game, the two teams combined for 58 attempts, making just 18. Brownell said it largely because the teams were collapsing in the paint, forcing the opposition to fire up 3s.
”Sometimes defenses dictate what you do,” Brownell said of the Tigers, who were 7 of 22 from long range.
Both teams entered with 15-15 records, looking to keep their postseason berths alive.
This game was every bit as tight as the first matchup with neither team leading by more than seven points until Clemson took over late.
The Tigers outscored Miami 16-11 in the final four minutes, including an 11-0 run.
With the game tied at 53, Curran Scott made two free throws and Dawes added four more from the line to put the Tigers ahead by six. Hunter Tyson then drilled a critical 3-pointer from the top of the key and Dawes added two more free throws to give Clemson its biggest lead of the game at 64-53 with 1:04 remaining.
Tyson finished with eight points off the bench, all in the second half, to give the Tigers a lift.
”He’s a confident person, so it doesn’t surprise me in the least that he’s going to raise up and shoot a 3 with a minute and a half to go in a game” Brownell said of Tyson.
Things got a little scary at the end for Clemson after Isaiah Wong stole an inbound pass and converted a baseline 3 to cut the lead to 68-64. Miami’s Anthony Walker added another steal and was fouled, but missed both free throws with 10 seconds left.
Five-foot-7 point guard Chris Lykes led Miami with 21 points off the bench including five 3s despite playing with a mask on his face after getting kneed in the head in a game last week.
”Once I’m out there, it’s no restrictions, it’s no complaints,” Lykes said. ”I’ve just got to do what I know I can do, and my teammates did a good job of getting me in rhythm early and just telling me keep going.”
After the game Miami coach Jim Larranaga praised the career of Vasiljevic, the team’s senior guard, who finished with 17 points.
”He’s as hard a worker as you’ll find in college, and he’s a limited athlete,” Larranaga said. ”He doesn’t think so, but he’s not the run-and-jump athlete that some of guys in the ACC are. And yet he’s been able to compete at such a high level because of his work ethic, his intelligence, his basketball IQ,”
Miami: The Hurricanes lacked an inside game and relied too heavily on long 3s. It caught up to them as they finished just 11 of 36 from beyond the arc. Outside of Lykes, the team was just six of 25 from beyond the arc.
Clemson: The Tigers are going to live and die by the 3-pointer, so they will have to shoot better than 7 of 22 to move ahead in the ACC Tournament.
Miami: Season is over.
Clemson: Moves on to face No. 1 seed Florida State on Thursday in the quarterfinals. It should be an interesting game as the Tigers avenged a 19-point loss to the Seminoles on Dec. 8 with a 70-69 upset on Feb. 29 at home.
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