PITTSBURGH: Clemson continued its mastery in conference play, Saturday, coming from behind to edge Pitt 75-74 and take sole possession of first place in the ACC. Despite a cold snap in the middle of the second half, the Tigers regained their footing and shooting form in time to overcome an eight-point deficit and defeat the Panthers for the tenth consecutive time.
Pitt embarked on an 8-0 run around the eight-minute mark of the second half while Clemson was in the midst of shooting slump, having missed seven straight shots from the field. Chase Hunter (17 points) snapped the skid with a 3-pointer, sparking a decisive 12-2 run in favor of the Tigers. Pitt didn’t go quietly, tying the game in the final minute on Jamarius Burton’s jumper. But Hunter quickly untied it on the other end, using his dribble to penetrate into the paint and sinking the go-ahead basket with 45 seconds remaining. Clemson defenders dug in to protect the lead. P.J. Hall (12 points, 10 rebounds) came up with a block and Hunter Tyson (15 points, 10 rebounds) knocked down a pair of foul shots to seal it.
It was the second straight game that has gone to the wire, both on the road, and both Clemson victories. The importance of having veteran leadership to guide the team to victory in those tough spots is not lost on head coach Brad Brownell, “We have a lot of homemade players that have developed in our program. P.J. Hall’s a junior, Hunter Tyson is a fifth-year guy, Chase Hunter is a fourth-year guy. Those guys have been through the wars with us. They’ve all made big plays throughout their careers …. This year’s team, we’re probably a little more talented (than other years), we’re older, and so we’re reaping the benefits of that.”
Brownell also updated the status of guard Alex Hemenway (foot), noting that Hemenway has suffered a “setback” in his recovery and is limited to shooting free throws right now. Even without one of its better shooters, Clemson has continued to excel from the perimeter. The Tigers came into the game ranking 16th in Division I 3-point shooting percentage at 38.8% and improved on that mark at Pitt, making 7 of 17 (41%).
Clemson (13-3, 5-0) is now in unfamiliar territory, perched atop the ACC in January. It’s the Tigers best start in ACC play since Cliff Ellis helmed a team featuring Elden Campbell and Horace Grant in the 1986-87 season. Clemson will play four of its next five at Littlejohn Coliseum, starting with Wednesday’s conference game against Louisville (2-14, 0-5). Tipoff between the Tigers and Cardinals is set for 9 p.m.