Al-Amir Dawes’s old-fashioned three-point play with 1:09 to go turned out to be the eventual game-winning shot as Clemson (Team USA) advanced to the Gold Medal Game of the World University Games with a 75-73 victory over Israel Tuesday in Naples, Italy.
The two-point victory was the Tigers’ fourth by four points or less in five games at the World University Games, and it was their third by two points or less, including a second straight two-point win. They also beat Ukraine by one-point in the preliminary round.
Once again, it was Clemson’s defense that got a much-needed stop at the end to hold on for victory. Golan Gutt’s three-point heave as time expired secured the Tigers’ win, but the Israelis had four opportunities on their previous possession to take the lead in the last 30 seconds.
Michael Brisker missed all three of his shots, which could have given the Israelis the lead. He last shot bounced off the rim and off a Clemson player’s hand and out of bounds with 10 seconds to play. Rafi Menco then missed a three-pointer with five seconds to go following a timeout.
Clemson’s Chase Hunter got the rebound, but he missed both fouls shots. Gutt’s heave at the end of the game was off the mark.
Israel lived and died by the three-pointer on Tuesday. They made just 6 of 23 shots from downtown after coming into the semifinal game as one of the best three-point teams in the field.
The Tigers, now 5-0 at the World University Games, will play the Ukraine in the Gold Medal Game Thursday at 2 p.m. (EST). Ukraine beat Australia by two points in the other semifinal game.
The United States was led by Aamir Simms’ career-high in points and rebounds. The junior forward scored a game-high 27 points and had a game-high 16 rebounds for the Tigers. He also had three assists.
Clemson also got 16 points from Dawes, who connected on 4 of 5 three pointers. John Newman added 10 points and had six rebounds on 4 of 7 shooting.
Team USA outrebound the Israelis 53-36, including a 23-8 edge on the offensive glass.
Early on, it looked like Israel was going to run away from Clemson like it has everyone else in the tournament. They used an 18-0 run in the first period to grab a 22-5 lead on the Tigers.
Following a Dawes’ three, that gave them a brief, 5-4 lead, the Tigers missed five shots and turned the ball over once during their next six possessions, allowing Israel to build its lead.
Israel led 26-12 after the first period.
However, Clemson responded with a 15-2 run to open the second period to get back in the game. Simms scored nine of those 15 points, including three points on a shot and a foul.
The Tigers then went on a 10-0 run to take a 37-32 lead with 2:26 to play in the half following a Khavon Moore basket.
The game was tied 41-41 at halftime.
The third period was nip and tuck as Israel led 53-51 after three periods. They then led by a many as seven points, 58-51, in the fourth when Menco drained a three with 8:19 to play.
But like they have done the entire tournament, the Americans were not done. They answered Israel with an 8-0 run, capped by a Simms’ layup with 5:09 to go after an Israeli turnover.
After the Israelis took a two-point lead on their next possession, Dawes buried a three that but Clemson back on top, 62-61, with 4:37 remaining. Simms then scored seven straight points for the Tigers to give them a 69-62 lead with 2:52 to play.
But Israel had one last run in them and cut the lead to one, 71-70, on a Brisker layup at the 1:27 mark. That set Dawes up for the game winner as he sliced inside for a layup and drew the foul. He completed the three-point play and gave the Tigers a 74-70 lead with 1:09 to go.
From there, Clemson hung on to get the win and advanced to the Gold Medal Game.