Al-Amir Dawes made a crucial three-pointer with 4:38 to play Wednesday to finish off Pittsburgh, as Clemson got a big, 72-52, road win at the Petersen Event Center in Pittsburgh.
The win was just the Tigers’ second road win of the year in eight tries and more importantly, it snapped a three-game losing streak.
“We did some good things tonight. This was a great performance. I thought our bench players were the guys who got us going early on,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “All of a sudden, we made some shots and got some excitement from the bench. Those guys were excited to play. I thought we competed exceptionally hard.”
After the Panthers (15-7, 6-8 ACC) cut what was once a 19-point Clemson lead to six points, 51-45, with 7:03 to play, the Tigers went on an 11-2 run to regain control of the game at 62-47 with 3:09 to go and never looked back from there.
Dawes finished the night with a game-high 18 points, while Tevin Mack scored 16 points. Aamir Simms, who missed the Notre Dame game last Sunday due to the flu, was back in the lineup on Wednesday and scored 12 points and had a game-high five assists for the Tigers.
Clemson led by 19 points in the second half. Mack’s layup with 12:11 to play gave the Tigers a 50-31 lead.
“This was a great win. This was what we needed,” Brownell said.” I think the bench was part of that. Curran [Scott] was aggressive. He made a shot and got fouled early on. It was important that we got off to a good start. I felt good about our chances if we got off to a good start, and we did an unbelievable job.
“Pitt made a big run, but Al-Amir made a big shot that put that run out, and it never came back. This was a good team win.”
The Tigers built their lead thanks to a 13-0 run during an 8-minute stretch from the end of the first half to the start of the second half. Clemson’s largest lead of the game was 20 points, which came right at the end of the night when Parker Fox came off the bench with 20 seconds to play and hit a three-pointer.
Clemson (12-12, 6-8 ACC) had one of its best shooting nights of the season. The Tigers shot 50-percent from the field and made 13-of-22 shots from behind the arc. The Tigers came into the game shooting just 28 percent from three-point range.
The Tigers’ 72 points were the most it scored since scoring 71 in a win over Syracuse. During its three-game skid, Clemson failed to score more than 44, 44 and 57 points against Wake Forest, Virginia and Notre Dame.
Clemson is 10-0 this season when scoring 70 or more points in a game.
After Pitt cut a 10-point Clemson lead to two points, 25-23, late in the first half, the Tigers used a 7-1 run to take a 32-24 lead into the locker room at halftime. Clemson was 11-of-25 from the field, including 6-of-13 from behind the three-point line in the first half.
Mack scored nine of his 16 points in the opening half, while Alex Hemenway scored all eight of his points and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from downtown.
Dawes scored 17 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, thanks to 5-of-7 shooting from the field. He was 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the last 20 minutes of the game.
“Al-Amir was terrific tonight. Obviously, when he’s making shots like that, it changes our team,” Brownell said. “It was great to have Aamir back. He settles us down and makes so many heady plays.
“Alex continued his hot shooting. I just loved the way he played tonight. Trey [Jemison] came in and rebounded well, getting four offensive rebounds.”
While Clemson was hot from the field, Pitt struggled against Clemson’s 2-3 Zone. The Panthers best scorers Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens combined to shoot just 2-for-20 from the field and 1-of-9 from behind the arc.
“We mixed in some zone in the first half and played primarily zone in the second half. That worked out well. I’m really happy for our players,” Brownell said. “I’m happy that, from start to finish, they played about as well as they could’ve played.”
Pitt finished the game shooting just 29-percent from three and just 31 percent overall. Justin Champagnie led the Panthers with 11 points.
The Tigers will host Louisville at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
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