I thought the second GT game was a microcosm of the season. Terrible start, promising middle with flashes of brilliance, and a resounding dud to end it all. It was interesting to see the great Tim Bourret echo the same sentiments. Well, the first half of the Miami game was a similar tale. Clemson got off to a pretty good start and led 17-10 before going into a patented scoring slump of well over five minutes, allowing Miami to take the lead 21-17. Clemson finally took the lid off the rim to tie it before giving up multiple offensive rebounds on the final Miami possession to go down two at the half. For Clemson fans, it was more of the stuff that frustrates the heck out of you: poor shooting (3-11 on 3’s), bad ball handling (6 turnovers), and poor rebounding (7 offensive boards for Miami in the first half). There was very little rhythm after the first six minutes or so of the half, and Miami, an average defensive team at best, was made to look good by how the Tigers played.
Fortunately, the Clemson defense was good enough to keep the Tigers at arm’s reach, holding the Hurricanes to just 2-15 on 3’s in the first half. The second half would prove to be a more up and down affair, featuring multiple lead changes along the way. Clemson did a much better job of attacking, as evidenced by the bevy of free throw attempts in the second half after shooting NONE in the first. Unlike most of the year, the Tigers took advantage and knocked down a stellar 18-19 from the free throw line. They needed it as the Hurricanes put up a barrage of 3 pointers, accompanied by some atrocious press offense by the Tigers, to make things way more interesting than they should have been at the end.
The Tigers were led by Al-Amir Dawes’s 18, followed by Aamir Simms with 14 and John Newman III with 11. As usual, when Dawes and Newman score double figures, the Tigers almost always win the game. The Tigers also got a big lift off the bench from Curran Scott, who got to the free throw line and knocked them down, as well as Hunter Tyson who buried a huge 3 pointer that all but iced the game with a minute to go. Clemson did a MUCH better job on the defensive glass in the second half, boxing out with a lot more purpose than in the first, and Miami had just 5 offensive rebounds in the second half, with one coming off an air ball late that was just unfortunate for Clemson. That helped the Tigers survive 11 made 3 point baskets by the Hurricanes. Chris Lykes once again scored in bunches against Clemson, finishing with 21 points to lead Miami.
The Tigers will now face top seeded Florida State at noon tomorrow. The Seminoles will surely be looking for payback from the upset two weeks ago, but Clemson will hopefully play with some confidence that it can indeed play with FSU.