Clemson’s men’s basketball team had a prime opportunity to not only improve its postseason resume but also add some cushion to its slim ACC lead.
Instead, the Tigers ended up with their first home loss in nearly a year.
PJ Hall scored a team-high 19 points while Brevin Galloway added 15 in his return, but No. 20 Clemson suffered a 78-74 setback to No. 23 Miami on Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum. Hunter Tyson added 13 points and 10 points for the Tigers, who’ve lost consecutive games for the first time since February of last year.
“Tough game,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “Congratulations to Miami. I thought they played very well, and I thought we played reasonably well tonight. … Defensively I just didn’t think we did enough good things to get stops to win.”
The Tigers (18-6, 10-3 ACC) began the day leading Virginia by just one game in the loss column atop the ACC standings. The Cavaliers were upset by Virginia Tech before Clemson’s game tipped, giving the Tigers a chance to pad their lead against the Hurricanes (19-5, 9-4), who presented the Tigers with a Quad 2 opportunity at No. 40 in the NET rankings.
Clemson had its opportunities to capitalize despite trailing throughout the second half. The Hurricanes took their largest lead at 56-44 with 11 minutes, 10 seconds left before the Tigers started chipping away.
With the help of 17 second-half points from Hall, Clemson used a 14-5 run to get within a possession at 61-58. Back-to-back layups from Hall again cut Clemson’s deficit to three at 70-67 with 1:36 left. After Miami split a pair of free throws, Clemson again went inside to its junior big man, but Hall couldn’t draw a foul call on a tightly contested shot.
Miami used the charity stripe to push its lead to two possessions with 19 seconds left. Clemson quickly made it a three-point game again on Tyson’s driving layup, and Alex Hemenway answered two more Hurricane free throws with a desperation 3-pointer with just 1 tick left to keep things interesting.
But Nigel Pack was immediately fouled as Miami inbounded the ball and made both free throws to seal a win for the Hurricanes that ended Clemson’s 15-game home winning streak dating back to last season. The Tigers hadn’t lost a home game since Feb. 19, 2022, against Louisville.
“It definitely felt different,” Tyson said. “Never a feeling you want to have, but we’ve got to get back to work.”
Pack led five Miami players in double figures with 20 points. Isaiah Wong scored 15, Wooga Poplar had 14, and Jordan Miller and Norchad Omier combined for 22 points and 14 boards for the Hurricanes, who shot 44.8% from the field.
Clemson shot even better at 47.5% and made 10 3-pointers, but Miami made 17 free throws and got to the foul line 22 times compared to just nine for the Tigers. The Hurricanes outrebounded Clemson 38-28 with nine of those coming on the offensive end.
“The only thing I’ve been disappointed in my team about a little bit this year is our guys are not aggressive enough with offensive rebounding,” Brownell said. “Some of that is I think that’s who you are. We have a lot of really nice kids and they’re skilled players, but we need a little bit more toughness sometimes.”
Tyson, who came in averaging more than 16 points per game, finished with just two in the second half after scoring 11 of his points on 4-of-4 shooting in the first as the teams played to a 35-all draw in the opening 20 minutes. Galloway, who’d missed the previous two games after undergoing testicular torsion surgery, scored nine points in 16 opening-half minutes, his first since Clemson’s win over Georgia Tech on Jan. 24.
But Miami, the third-highest scoring team in the ACC, scored 21 of the first 30 points of the second half to build its double-digit lead, and the Hurricanes’ balance combined with the rebounding woes ultimately proved to be too much for Clemson to overcome.
“We just had trouble guarding a good offensive team today, and that’s why we lost,” Brownell said.
The Tigers remain a game ahead of Virginia and Pitt in the win column with seven games left in the regular season. Next up for Clemson is a trip to North Carolina next Saturday.
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