Clemson fought off a last-minute rally to advance past Miami 69-64, and into the ACC quarterfinals in Greensboro, NC, Wednesday.
John Newman III’s breakaway layup had seemingly put a bow on Clemson’s victory, giving the Tigers a 10-point lead with less than a minute remaining. But an offensive rebound and two turnovers breathed new life into Miami’s chances. The Hurricanes cut the lead to four before missing on a pair of 3-point heaves in the final 15 seconds.
The Tigers made their first 18 free throws before Aamir Simms’ miss with 10 seconds left. Otherwise, Simms had a banner day, scoring 14 points while leading all players in both rebounds (10) and assists (four). Freshman Al-Amir Dawes had a team-high 18 points, sparked by his 8 of 8 performance at the stripe. The 18 for 19 shooting (94.7%) at the line qualifies as the third best free throw performance in school history.
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell on quality offense leading to opportunities at the foul line, “Free throws were big. We made some cuts, made some aggressive offensive plays. Our team is about execution. We’re not physically dominant as some other teams in this league, so we need to execute like that.”
As is so often the case for the Tigers, the defense set the tone. Clemson held Miami to 2 of 15 shooting from the 3-point line in the first half. But Clemson hit a cold streak of its own and found itself down by a basket at the break. The teams combined to hit only 5 of 26 3-pointers in the first twenty minutes of play.
It was only after the Tigers began drawing fouls with well-executed cuts and passes that they separated themselves. All 19 of Clemson’s foul shot attempts came in the second half. Miami only managed to earn seven free throws for the game.
Clemson will now face off with a familiar foe, fourth-ranked Florida State. The Tigers pulled an upset over the Seminoles in the last meeting, but will now face a rested Florida State squad on the hunt for revenge and a no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The tip is scheduled for 12:30 p.m., tomorrow.