GREENSBORO, N.C. — Clemson made 18 of 19 free throws, including 11 of 12 in the final 3:48 from the foul line to advance to the quarterfinal round of the ACC Tournament Wednesday with a 69-64 victory over No. 9 seed Miami at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro.
“We knew we were going to have to come in and make some free throws, so me and the guys were well prepared for that and we were just being smart with the ball,” said Clemson guard Al-Amir Dawes, who was 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.
The Tigers, the No. 8 seed, advance to the ACC Tournament’s Quarterfinals for the second time in the last three years, where they will play top-seed Florida State on Thursday at 12:30 p.m..
“That was a great win for our guys,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought we played very well throughout. Certainly, Chris Lykes was outstanding in the second half, he is a difficult cover.”
Lykes finished the game with 21 points after having five at halftime.
It looked like Hunter Tyson’s three-pointer with 1:35 to go was going to be the final nail in the coffin for Clemson as it gave the Tigers a 62-53 lead. Two Dawes’ free throws extended the lead to 11 before the Hurricanes made one last rally to try to extend the game.
“I think that just goes back to my work,” Tyson said. “I feel like I work really hard, so when we get in positions like that that are really crucial, I just fall back on my fundamentals and my hard work so I know I’m prepared for that moment, and I feel like my teammates trusted me and my coach trusted me, so I think that’s why we were able to be successful with me out there on the floor.”
Behind Lykes’, DJ Vasiljevic’s and Isaiah Wong’s three-pointers, Miami was down just four points, 68-64, with 15 seconds to play in the game. But Anthony Walker missed two free throws after stealing an inbounds pass by Clemson with 12 seconds to go and Aamir Simms sealed the win with another free throw with 10 seconds to play.
The win allowed the Tigers to win an ACC Tournament game for the third time in the last four years, a first for the Clemson program.
Clemson (16-15, 9-11 ACC) was led by Dawes’ 18 points. Simms had 14 points and John Newman finished with 11 points. Simms’ posted a double-double with 10 rebounds to go with his 14 points.
“Offensively, I thought we were really good,” Brownell said. “The longer the game went we got better. We got into a rhythm. I thought our pace was better and certainly, our ability to make free throws down the stretch.”
The Tigers and Hurricanes were tied at 53-53 with 4:02 to play. But using the free throw line as its friend. Clemson built a six-point lead, 59-53, with 2:12 to go thanks to six straight made foul shots by Dawes and Curran Scott.
“We played more comfortable down the stretch,” Scott said. “We kind of had a couple of turnovers late, they hit a couple of shots, but overall, we were able to take care of the ball pretty well and make free throws down the stretch. That was good for us and it was big for us to come out with a win.”
Miami (15-16, 7-13 ACC) led the Tigers 23-21 at the break when Wong made a second-chance layup with two seconds to go. The layup completed a late surge that saw the Hurricanes outscore Clemson 13-4 over the final 7:37.
Simms made a jumper in the lane with 7:37 to go in the half that gave the Tigers a 17-10 lead at the time. But Clemson went the next six minutes without a bucket.
Clemson’s defense held the Hurricanes to 32.1 percent shooting in the opening half, but it could not get the offense going late. The Tigers’ 21 first half points were their second lowest of the season for a half.