Loss to Miami could potentially hurt Clemson’s tournament hopes
Despite Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell draped all over Zach Johnson’s fadeaway jumper with 0.4 seconds to play, the guard’s shot rolled around the cylinder and finally dropped in as Miami stunned the Tigers’ 65-64 Wednesday in Coral Gables, Fla.
It was another gut-wrenching loss on the road for Clemson, who had its four-game winning streak snapped. Ironically, the Tigers’ last loss came on a buzzer-beating shot as well at NC State on January 26.
After trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half, Clemson rallied to take a 64-63 lead on two Marcquise Reed free throws with 1:16 to play.
The Tigers then got a stop on the defensive end and had an opportunity to at least extend their lead to three points, but Reed’s driving layup with 23 seconds to go bounced off the back of the rim. The Hurricanes got the rebound and set up for Johnson’s game-winning shot.
Reed led the Tigers with 19 points, with 15 of those coming in the second half. The senior guard was 9-for-9 at the foul line in the second half. Elijah Thomas had 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Shelton Mitchell scored 15 points.
The loss was a big blow for Clemson’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The loss to the Hurricanes is Clemson’s worst of the season and will leave a scar on its resume when selection day comes next month. It also does help with a road game at No. 16 Louisville on the docket this Saturday (noon).
The Tigers (15-9, 5-6 ACC) fell behind when Miami went on a 13-0 run to take a 43-33 lead with 14:36 to play. D.J. Vasiljevic, who caught fire in the second half, made a triple to cap the run.
Vasiljevic led all scorers with 22 points. He was 5 of 7 from behind the arc in the second half as he scored 18 points in the last 20 minutes. He was also 3-for-3 from the foul line.
Point guard Chris Lykes dropped in 21 points on 8 of 17 shooting and was 3-for-5 from three-point range.
Miami shot 54 percent from the field in the second half, while the Tigers shot 48 percent. The difference in the game came behind the three-point line. The ‘Canes were 8 of 15 from behind the arc in the last 20 minutes, while Clemson was 3-for-8.
The Hurricanes finished the game 10 of 25 from downtown, while the Tigers were just 3 of 19.
After a dismal display of shooting from both teams in the first half, things picked up in the second half. Clemson led 26-24 at the break as Mitchell drained a jumper in the final seconds to give the Tigers the lead.
But Miami (11-13, 3-9 ACC) got going in the second half as it came out and made six of its eight second-half triples in the first 10 minutes, with Vasiljevic making five of the six threes. A three by Vasiljevic with 10:24 to play put the Hurricanes up nine points, 54-45.
However, behind the play of Reed and Thomas, Clemson slowly fought back and cut the Miami lead to two points, 54-52, on Thomas’ driving layup with 8:03 to play to cap a 7-0 run.
The Tigers used a 6-0 run moments later to take their first lead since it was 33-30 with 17:13 to go following an Aamir Simms’ triple. Reed capped the 6-0 run with his two free throws to give Clemson a 64-63 lead with 1:16 remaining.
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