Miami men’s basketball stopped a Clemson comeback attempt to leave South Carolina with a 78-74 win against the top team in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) at Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
For the second time this season, No. 23 Miami (18-5, 9-4 ACC) beat a ranked opponent — its other win came against No. 6 Virginia in December. In doing so, the ‘Canes broke No. 20 Clemson’s 15-game home winning streak.
The Hurricanes would not have been able to do it without another impressive game from guard Nijel Pack. The Kansas State transfer’s 20 points led both teams, and he made two crucial free throws with one second remaining to secure the victory for Miami. He went 6 for 6 from the charity stripe overall.
“[Pack] was very poised down the stretch,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Every time he released the ball, I think it’s going in.”
Clemson’s comeback attempt was led by center PJ Hall, who scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to give the Tigers (18-6, 10-3 ACC) a shot at overtaking the Hurricanes. He went 7 for 9 from the field on his second–half shots.
However, Hall had only five rebounds in the game, even though he was the tallest player on the court at 6-foot-10. Miami outrebounded Clemson 38-28, with eight boards coming from the offensive end.
Larrañaga was delighted to learn the margin Miami won the rebound battle by at his postgame press conference, saying, “Oh my! Wow!”
When the ‘Canes outrebound their opponent, they tend to come out on top. Miami has won 25 consecutive games when tallying more boards than the other team.
Both squads went punch-for-punch in the first half, with Clemson’s most significant lead coming towards the end of the first half when they were up six.
By halftime, though, the score was tied at 35. Clemson forward Hunter Tyson was a perfect 4 of 4 from the field and 3 of 3 from deep for a game-high 11 points heading into the break.
The start of the second half gave Miami enough separation to hold the lead for the rest of the game. The ‘Canes made 7 of their first 13 attempts of the half and 4 of their 7 3-point attempts. Miami’s hot shooting gave it a 56-44 lead, the largest deficit of the game for Clemson, with 11:10 left in the second half.
However, Hall fueled a 14-5 Clemson run that cut the Hurricanes’ lead to three with six minutes left. Two clutch free throws from Pack and a huge 3-pointer from Miami guard Wooga Poplar gave the ‘Canes an eight-point lead with 4:39 remaining, which proved too much for the Tigers to overcome. Poplar finished with 14 points in the game, shooting 4 of 5 from the field.
Next up, the Hurricanes face Duke in a highly anticipated matchup at the Watsco Center on Monday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPN.