Photos courtesy of Ben Winterrowd (Clemson Athletic Communications) & Jeffrey Ridley
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Coming up clutch to cap off one of the best performances of his illustrious Clemson career, Aamir Simms banked in the winning shot of a thriller between the Tigers and the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. Simms was far and away the game’s leading scorer with 25 points, which equaled his career-high point total, and his shot off the glass with 19 seconds left ultimately resulted in Clemson pulling out a gutsy 66-65 win at the Watsco Center.
Clemson (8-1, 2-1) led for over 22 minutes of action in a tilt that featured six lead changes, the last of which came on Simms’ clutch bank shot. The Tigers shot 44.1 percent from the floor and made nine shots from behind the 3-point line. Miami (4-4, 0-3), which finished with a field goal percentage of 46.9, suffered 16 turnovers, and Clemson converted them into 20 points. Clemson pulled down 28 rebounds and scored 28 points in the paint. In addition, the Tigers recorded 11 second-chance points and racked up 18 assists.
Shooting 10-for-14 from the field and 3-for-4 at the free throw line, Simms amassed a season-high 25 points while pulling down a team-leading seven rebounds and dishing out four assists. Simms showed out on defense, too, leading all players with four blocks on the afternoon. Alex Hemenway made his first career start and tallied eight points. Clyde Trapp registered a balanced stat line of five points, five boards and five assists. On top of scoring seven points and distributing five dimes, Nick Honor attained a game-high four steals, including a clutch steal in the game’s closing seconds. Miami’s Isaiah Wong recorded 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Simms scored the game’s first basket via a 3-pointer that followed a Miami turnover. A few possessions later, the big man sank another trey, which placed Clemson ahead 6-3. Continuing with his hot start, Simms improved to 3-of-3 from the floor when he threw down a second-chance dunk after corralling an offensive board. The Tigers fared well from beyond the arc in the early goings, starting off 5-of-6 on 3-point shots. Chase Hunter netted a three-ball to make the score 19-9 in favor of Clemson, and Hemenway sank a 3-pointer that put the Tigers up 30-22. Following Hemenway’s aforementioned triple, the Hurricanes closed out the first half on a 12-2 run and took a 34-32 lead into the break.
Miami increased its lead to six points early in the second half, but Clemson fought back and took a one-point lead on a second-chance layup by Simms with a little over 15 minutes remaining. At the 12:44 mark, Simms slipped into the lane, and Clyde Trapp fed him the rock for a wide-open dunk. Similarly, P.J. Hall, who hit a go-ahead 3-pointer midway through the second half, received a pass from Simms on a backdoor play and slammed it home. Hall’s dunk provided Clemson with a 53-51 advantage that developed into a 61-58 lead with 4:57 left on the game clock. The ‘Canes proceeded to manufacture a 7-0 run, but Clemson produced a clutch 5-0 run in the final 1:05 and came away with a hard-fought victory. Honor drained a 3-pointer to pull the Tigers to within one. Simms went on to bank in a jumper in the paint with 19 seconds remaining, which, following a frenetic finish that included multiple turnovers, culminated in the 66-65 final score.
The Tigers will return home to Littlejohn Coliseum for a battle with the NC State Wolfpack (6-1, 2-0) on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m., the contest in Clemson, S.C., will air on ACC Network.
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Head Coach Brad Brownell
Opening statement:“This was certainly a hard-fought win. Our guys approached this game well. For the first 10 minutes, we played at a high level. It took us a little while to adapt to Miami’s defensive adjustments. In the second half, we did much better.”
On Clemson’s top performers:“Nick [Honor] made a huge shot. Aamir [Simms] was fantastic. He was able to find a way to score that final basket. Clyde [Trapp] driving the floor was important. We drew some fouls, made some big plays and gutted out a win.”
On the keys to the game:“We knew we would have opportunities to shoot threes. We just wanted to make sure our guys took good ones, and we found more ways to do that in the second half. We had a good mix of offense and played much better against Miami’s defense in the second half, and that won the game for us.”