Honor’s last-second shot lifts Tigers past Georgia Tech
At least once a week, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell will have his team practice the final seconds of a ballgame. All that practice paid off Friday night.
Following two missed free throws by Georgia Tech’s Jose Alvarado with eight seconds to play, the Tigers’ Nick Honor calmly moved the basketball up the floor, got a good ball screen from his buddy Aamir Simms, went left and then launched a shot that banked off the glass and into the net with 1.1 seconds to play.
“We do it every week. We don’t do it every day,” Brownell said. “But we got a few things in our pocket that we have practiced. We, obviously, ran through that yesterday and I think the assistants did it again right before pregame. We kind of do a couple of specialty things that we worked on through the year and that is one we have practiced all year.”
Honor’s shot lifted Clemson to an improbable 74-72 victory over the Yellow Jackets at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson. And though the Tigers practice situations like Honor’s game-winning shot, Friday’s winning play was not exactly drawn up like it was supposed to.
For one, Clemson (13-5, 7-5 ACC) was not counting on Alvarado—an 88 percent free throw shooter—to miss both foul shots. Secondly, Simms was not supposed to be setting a ball screen.
“That was something we did not even draw up. We just kind of did it,” said Simms, who tied his career-high with 25 points.
The Tigers were expecting Alvarado to make his free throws. Brownell even called out to his team to let Jonathan Baehre bring the ball in and have Honor bring the ball up the court, giving the Tigers plenty of time to set up what they thought would be an opportunity to tie the game.
But Alvarado did not play along and when he missed the second free throw, Clemson had to improvise a little. The Tigers had no timeouts so Baehre grabbed the rebound, got it to honor, who pushed the ball up the floor as quick as he could. As he got just past half court, Simms set the screen on Alvarado, opening it up for Honor, who launched his game-winner from about 30 feet with 3.3 seconds to play.
“We just looked back at Coach to see what we were going to run, and he just said, ‘JB take it out and Aamir go to the top.’ So, we just kinda went from there. We thought he was going to make it, so we thought we had time to set it up, but it just kind of happened that way,” Simms said. “Thank you, Jose for missing those, but sometimes you just have to throw it all together and just hope God answers your prayer.”
And this time Clemson’s prayer was answered.
“You get so caught up in the moment, you are just trying to make the right play,” said Honor, who scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting. “I knew we did not have any timeouts, so as soon as I came off the screen, it was probably one of the cleanest looks I got all night.
“Once I saw (Moses Wright) back up, I know we could have got a two, but I just felt like I was in range, so I let it go.”
The Tigers, who have won three straight and four of their last five games, will hit the road for the first of three straight road games when they travel to South Bend to face Notre Dame next Wednesday. Tip is set for 7 p.m.