CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Miami coach Jim Larranaga has a message he routinely tells his players.
“Coach L always says, ‘Calm, cool, collected will win you games,’” Hurricanes reserve Bensley Joseph said with a smile.
No. 23 Miami needed every bit of that mantra to hold off No. 20 Clemson, 78-74, on Saturday. Nijel Pack scored 20 points, Isaiah Wong 15 and the Hurricanes held on after opening a 12-point lead in the second half.
“We were able to do that in the last five minutes,” Joseph said.
Wong and Pack each hit 3-pointers right after halftime for the Hurricanes (18-5, 9-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who used a 21-9 run to open a 56-44 lead with 11:10 to play.
The Tigers sliced the deficit to 76-74 on Alex Hemenway's 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds to play. Pack was fouled on the inbounds and calmly — there's that word, again — made two foul shots to finish off the victory.
Clemson (18-6, 10-3) lost its second straight game after opening ACC play 10-1.
The Hurricanes stepped up their offense after halftime. Pack had 14 of his points in the final half while Wong had 11 points over the final 20 minutes. Miami hit six of its nine 3-pointers in that period.
Larranaga felt the excitement of the sold-out Clemson crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum. The poise the Hurricanes showed was essential in the victory.
“To come out in the second half and be able take the lead under these circumstances says a lot about our team,” Larranaga said. “That we were very competitive, and didn’t let the crowd take us out of our gameplan.”
Wooga Poplar added 14 points for Miami while Jordan Miller had 12.
PJ Hall had 17 of his team-high 19 points in the second half for the Tigers. Hunter Tyson added 13 points and 10 rebounds, his ninth double-double in Clemson's 13 league games.
Tyson thought his team's defense needed to be tougher. “We couldn't get the stops when we needed to,” he said. “They scored 78 in our gym. That should never happen.”
Miami came in with the ACC's third highest scoring offense while Clemson was third in the league in defense.
The Hurricanes used a 16-8 run closed on Miller's tip-in of his own miss to lead 30-25 with five minutes left in the half.
But Tyson hit a pair of threes, had a step back basket and took a charge on the other end as Clemson answered with a 10-1 burst to move in front 35-31.
Miami, though, answered last as Harlond Beverly's jam in the final minute tied things at 35-all heading to the break.
The Hurricanes did a strong job early on Clemson's main force down low in Hall, holding the 14-point a game scorer to 1-of-5 shooting and just one rebound the first 20 minutes.
Clemson did a similar job on Miami's driving force, Wong, who also made one of his five first-half attempts.
Miami: The Hurricanes showed the scoring punch and defense that's kept them among the Top 25 this season. They were six of 12 on 3-pointers in the second half and hit 13 of 15 foul shots to thwart a Clemson comeback.
Clemson: The Tigers have had a difficult week, the first-place ACC team losing at Boston College 62-54 before get run over early in the second half against Miami. The 0-2 stretch will likely mean Clemson will drop from the poll, although they'll still be on top in the ACC standings.
Clemson doesn't play until next Saturday. Tigers coach Brad Brownell said it's probably a good time for time off. There's been a mix of fatigue and handling player absences due to injury that have taken a toll on the Tigers, he said. “The good news is we're whole,” with injured players Chase Hunter, Hemenway and Brevin Galloway back in the lineup. “Having said that, we need a break.”
Miami goes home to play Duke on Monday night.
Clemson heads to North Carolina on Feb. 11.
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