CLEMSON, S.C. — In a high-flying contest at Littlejohn Coliseum, the Clemson University men’s basketball team pulled out an 81-70 victory over the NC State Wolfpack on Saturday. Five different Tigers scored in double figures for the first time on the season, and Aamir Simms led the charge for Clemson with 17 points.
Clemson (7-7, 1-3 ACC) never trailed on the afternoon, using an efficient 46.9 shooting percentage to keep NC State (10-4, 1-2 ACC) at bay throughout. The Tigers sank nine 3-pointers and was a stellar 83.9 percent from the free throw line, making a season-high 26 free throws. Clemson also won the rebounding margin 34-30 and scored 16 points off turnovers. The Wolfpack, meanwhile, shot 44.1 percent from the floor and tallied 36 points in the paint. Productive passing was a theme of Clemson’s winning performance, as 18 of the Tigers’ 23 field goals were assisted.
Eight of Simms’ points came at the charity stripe, with the big man going 8-of-9 on free throws. Al-Amir Dawes also excelled at the free throw line, knocking down 9-of-10 free throws as part of a 16-point showing. Tevin Mack added 14 points to go along with his seven rebounds, and Curran Scott, who connected on three treys, also tallied 14 points. Additionally, Scott matched his career-high assists mark with four dimes. John Newman III provided Clemson with a spark via his 12 points. D.J. Funderburk led the Wolfpack with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
In the first half, Clemson made eight 3-balls and led by as many as 14 points. After the Tigers led 16-14, Clemson manufactured a 16-4 run that resulted in the Tigers leading 32-18 at the 5:24 mark. Both teams shot the ball well from the floor in the hotly contested first half, and the Wolfpack closed out the half on a 7-0 run to pull within six points of Clemson.
After sporting a 41-35 advantage at the intermission, the Tigers went back and forth with the Wolfpack throughout most of the second half. Clemson consistently attacked the basket during the course of the final 20 minutes of play and did not relent on defense. A late 7-0 run that spanned exactly two minutes of play culminated in the Tigers going up 68-58 at the 3:35 mark. Scott knocked down a clutch corner 3-pointer in the midst of that run, and Mack later iced the game with an athletic up-and-under layup made possible by an assist from Simms. The Tigers knocked down 12-of-their-last-13 free throws to secure the 81-70 victory.
The next game on the docket for the Tigers is a matchup at the Dean E. Smith Center against the North Carolina Tar Heels (8-5, 1-1). Scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 11, the ACC battle in Chapel Hill, N.C., will tip off at 4:30 p.m. and air on a regional sports network (RSN).
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John Newman IIIOn the victory:“We’ve had some ups and downs this season, but this was a good game to get our momentum back. We’re getting into the nitty-gritty of conference play, so it was a big win. There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played, so we just need to stay focused and stay together. And I think you saw that today.”
On his performance:“I just kept working hard in the buildup to this game, and today showed the process I’ve been going through. I just stuck to it and didn’t let any bad games get me down. My teammates helped me get going early. We have a lot of energy in the locker room, and that carries over to the court.”
Al-Amir Dawes:On his 9-of-10 performance at the free throw line:“It’s a magical feeling to make free throws. It’s not nerve-wracking to me. I work at it every day.”
Curran ScottOn his clutch late-game 3-pointer:“Every time they made a run, we made a play to stop their run. Every time they made a big play, we came back with a good play. My 3-pointer just happened to be a shot that pushed us over the edge, but we all responded as a group any time they made a big shot or a big play.”
On Clemson’s offensive scheme:“We simplified it a little bit and started running more motion. As you saw today, NC State was hedging hard on the ball screen, so we were able to get a lot of slips to the basket. And when we didn’t have that, we could hit it right back to the top of the key and play through the five-man. We had good movement, and we didn’t really have a stretch where we weren’t scoring. It was pretty consistent throughout.”
Opening statement:“I couldn’t be more proud of the way our guys played today. We played pretty well in the last game against Miami but didn’t finish it. I was really heartbroken for our guys because we’ve been working really hard for the last month. They responded after a challenging film session and two great days of practice. We played about as well as we could’ve played offensively. ”
On the keys to the win:“We had one or two wrinkles in the game plan that were really helpful and gave our guys some confidence. We played at a high level in every phase of the game. We had five guys score in double figures. We made our free throws down the stretch. It was a really good win against a really good team. We were very good. We shared the ball. We made shots. The bench played well. We played a very good game today. This is very satisfying because of how hard our kids have been working.”
On the performance of Al-Amir Dawes:“Al took a big step forward today. He made a bunch of free throws to ice the game. He didn’t turn the ball over against pressure or press. He’s growing up. I thought this was a terrific performance. He went head-to-head against Markell Johnson and hung in there against a very good player.”