Playing for its NCAA Tournament life, Clemson rode a hot shooting start to a big first-half lead and hung on in the second half for a 62-48 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night at the Petersen Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Tigers made seven of their first 10 shots from 3-point range and took a 38-16 lead into the locker room at halftime. However, the Panthers wouldn’t go away quietly.
Following six straight points by David Skara that gave Clemson a 26-point lead — its largest of the game — at the 17:31 mark of the second half, Pittsburgh proceeded to go on a 20-4 run and cut its deficit to 10 points, at 48-38, on a pair of free throws by Pendleton native Trey McGowens with 8:14 left in the second half. An ensuing dunk by Elijah Thomas with under eight minutes remaining snapped a Clemson scoring drought that lasted more than eight minutes.
The Panthers drew within 10 points a few other times, but freshman Hunter Tyson helped Clemson hang on by hitting a couple of clutch 3-pointers down the stretch. The Monroe, N.C., native made three 3-pointers overall and finished with a career-high nine points.
Pittsburgh nearly cut Clemson’s lead to nine points with just over a minute remaining, but was called for offensive interference when a Pitt player touched a ball that appeared to be in the cylinder.
Clemson improved its record to 17-11 (7-8 ACC), while Pittsburgh fell to 12-16 and 2-13 in conference play.
Marcquise Reed led Clemson with 14 points and had seven rebounds, while Thomas posted 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Shelton Mitchell also scored in double-figures for the Tigers with 10 points, and Skara added nine. Xavier Johnson paced Pittsburgh with 14 points.
Sitting on the tournament bubble as March Madness approaches, Clemson took care of business on the road in a must-win situation. The Tigers jumped out to a 10-0 lead and also went on runs of 11-0 and 8-0 in the first half as they built a 22-point lead entering the locker room. Clemson allowed just 16 points to Pitt in the first half, the fewest points it has given up all season.
For the game, the Tigers shot 42 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range, while Pitt shot just 27 percent and made only 3-of-14 attempts from beyond the arc. The Panthers held a big advantage at the free-throw line, making 21-of-28 shots at the stripe while the Tigers went 8-of-9.
Clemson returns to action this Saturday when it plays host to No. 5 North Carolina for a 6 p.m. game at Littlejohn Coliseum.
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