Once again, Clemson could not make free throws. However, this time the Tigers found a way to get a win as they rallied from eight points down in the second half to beat Wake Forest 71-68 Tuesday at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
Clyde Trapp, who was 2-for-7 at the foul line, made the second of two free throws with 11 seconds to play and Aamir Simms knocked down two more with six seconds to go to seal the victory.
“I am really happy for my players and proud of my guys. This was a hard fought game,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said.
Hunter Tyson had a career-high 21 points and five rebounds for Clemson. He was 9-for-13 from the field.
“I am happy for Hunter. He has been playing well,” Brownell said. “I kind of told you guys that he and Curran (Scott) have been playing better for us after the break. I think it has really helped our team. Their scoring and confidence has helped us.
“I am just really happy (for Hunter). He is an extremely hard worker and he has started to do more things. He is finishing plays around the basket now. His strength and weight training and his added weight has helped.”
Wake (9-9, 2-6 ACC) was led by Andrien White’s 22 points. Olivier Sarr had 16 points, while Brandon Childress added 14 points.
Clemson (10-8, 4-4 ACC) finished the game 7-for-18 at the free throw line, 39-percent. Clemson is just 27-of-63 from the foul in the last three games, 42.9 percent. It was 11-for-22 against Duke and 9-of-23 at NC State.
“I think it is part of the game,” Trapp said. “You can’t focus on one thing in the game and lose focus just because you are not shooting free throws well or the team is not shooting free throws well.
“But, at the end of the day, you have to get back in the gym and practice our free throws.”
Ironically, it was made free throws that won the game in the end for the Tigers. Scott made two free throws for a 67-61 lead with 43 seconds to play. Clemson was 1-for-10 from the foul line in the first 39 minutes and 17 seconds and was 6-for-8 in the last 43 seconds.
But White made a three from the top of the key with 34 seconds to play to pull Wake within three and then Scott turned the ball over on the Clemson inbounds, giving the Demon Deacons the chance to tie the game.
However, Ismael Massoud missed an open look from the right side that could have tied the game with 11 seconds to go. Trapp then made his 1-of -2 free throws on the other to give the Tigers control of the game again.
Clemson grabbed its first lead since 11-9 with 14:51 to play in the first half, when Tyson followed a Scott miss with a layup for a 57-56 lead with 5:56 to play in the game. Then Scott extended the lead to four with a three-pointer from the left wing with 4:35 to go.
Clemson was 8-for-25 from the behind the arc.
The Tigers trailed by as many 10 points in the game, twice, and both came in the first half. Wake had an eight-point second half lead when Sarr made a jumper with 15:43 to go for a 47-39 advantage.
However, Clemson rallied when Tevin Mack hit a jumper and Simms knocked down his first bucket of the night—a three from the right side—and then followed with a layup to make it 47-46 with 13:52 to go. Mack later drained a shot from behind the arc to tie the game at 49 with 11:50 to play.
The Demon Deacons went up five points, 56-51, when Clemson went on its 7-0 run to take its 60-56 lead. The Tigers never trailed again.
Wake led 37-31 at halftime as it shot 50 percent from the field. It was the first time the Demon Deacons led at halftime this year in an ACC game.
They led by as many as 10 points in the opening half. They went on a 9-0 run midway through the half to grab a 27-17 lead. They also led 31-21 following a Torry Johnson layup with 4:43 to go in the half.
“I thought Wake played really well in the first half. A lot of credit to them. They came in here and played with confidence. They played very well in their win against Boston College. I think it carried over,” Brownell said. “Defensively, we were not quiet as good in the first half and some of that was their offense. They had good execution. They got a couple of offensive rebounds and scored. Sarr made some tough shots. He is a talented scorer. You can be guarding him well and he turns and shoots over you.”
But the Tigers cut the lead nearly in half by outscoring Wake 10-6 the rest of the way. Hunter had nine first half points on 4-of-7 shooting. Simms got in foul trouble and did not score in the first half as he played just 12 minutes.
Clemson shot 46 percent from the field in the opening half. Both teams were 4-of-14 from behind the arc. But free shooting continued to plague the Tigers. They were just 1-6 from the foul line in the opening 20 minutes, and at one point were 1-for-10 from the foul line in the game.
Clemson will visit No. 6 Louisville on Saturday at 2 p.m.