CLEMSON DIGS DEEP FOR 75-74 WIN AT PITT, NOW ALONE ATOP THE ACC AT 5-0
- 2023-01-08 13:54:27
Today was showdown Saturday between the only undefeated teams left in ACC play! The Tigers were coming off a quad-one road win over a very good VA Tech team and had won their other 3 ACC games by at least 13 points, including NC State, which just blew out No.16 Duke. The Tigers came in 12-3 overall and 4-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1996-97 when I was an undergrad and Rick Barnes took them to the Sweet 16! Meanwhile, Pitt was coming off a win over a top-10 UVA team and had also beaten UNC.
It would be an even tougher test for the Tigers because they had short rest on top of heavy travel. They got back to Clemson at about 3 am Thursday morning from Blacksburg and then had to turn around the next day and fly to Pittsburgh. Also, starter Alex Hemenway, the best 3-point shooter on the team, was still out with a heel injury after missing 3 straight games.
The Tigers led for most of the first half and by as many as 10 in the game. However, Pitt went on a 12-2 run late in the first half and took a 40-38 lead into halftime thanks to a circus shot at the buzzer. The second half was close throughout, but the Tigers went almost 8 minutes without a field goal, and Pitt mounted a 7-point lead with 4 minutes left. I thought at that point that the Tigers were mentally and physically spent and would not be able to overcome the crowd and momentum Pitt had on its side. However, the Tigers showed just how mentally tough they really are! Hall made a huge 3-point play to cut the lead to 4, Hunter made a step-back jumper off the glass and freshman Chauncey Wiggins, of all players, made a clutch shot off the glass to tie the game with 2:21 left. Galloway made a clutch shot as well to give the Tigers a 2-point lead after a 9-0 run! Pitt tied the game, but Hunter answered to put the Tigers up 2 again with 45 seconds left. After the Tigers got a defensive stop, Hunter Tyson was fouled and calmly made both free throws for the all-important 4-point lead with 9 seconds left. The Tigers have done a tremendous job at the free throw line in all of their 5 ACC wins, especially down the stretch! Pitt wouldn't go down quietly, however. The Panthers made a 3-pointer with one second left and called a timeout down one point. All the Tigers had to do was lob the ball down court and touch it, and that's exactly what Hunter Tyson did to seal the win.
Hunter led the Tigers with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Tyson scored 15 with 10 rebounds, his 9th double-double of the season, and was 2-3 from the arc. Hall also had a double-double with 10 rebounds. He only scored 12 points but had the clutch 3-point play and drew a big charge call at the end of the game. Galloway was 3-7 from the arc with 12 points, including the big bucket at the end. Ian fouled out with 6 minutes left, scoring 6 points, but fellow sophomore Ben Middlebrooks continued to contribute good minutes and added 6 points. True freshman RJ Godfrey played just 8 minutes after his best career game against VA Tech in which he scored 10 points.
Back-to-back impressive road wins on short rest, and the Tigers are alone in 1st place in the ACC at 5-0! It looked like fatigue was setting in down the stretch, but they found a way to regain the lead. We're talking about a red-hot Pitt team that was 4-0 in the ACC with wins over UVA and UNC, winning 10 of their last 11. Yet down 7 with 4 minutes left on the road and fatigued, the Tigers clawed out a win! It's been quite some time since they had two more impressive ACC road wins back-to-back. And what a huge bucket by Chauncey Wiggins of all people! The true freshman has barely played this season and was probably only in there late in the game because Ian had fouled out, but he made a big-time basket with 2:21 left to tie the game.
This team is for real, folks! I said preseason that I liked their chances to make the NCAA if they stay healthy, and that sure looks like the case now. The rest of the ACC media picked the Tigers 11th in the preseason. I picked them 5th. After 5 straight wins (4 away from home), the Tigers should be ranked next week for the first time in a couple years. They host a struggling Louisville team at home on Wednesday and then No.16 Duke next Saturday. I asked Brownell about Hemenway and whether he was shooting at all. He said that he had a set back last week and is now doing very little other than shooting free throws. Still, they are playing very well without him, so maybe they can get through these next 2 home games before they try to bring him back into the fold.
Post-game interviews and highlights are below!
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