For most of a New Year’s Eve matinee at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, the three-point shots didn't fall for the Miami Hurricanes.
But with the clock ticking and the game on the line in overtime, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s second-leading three-point shooter made a contested shot in the corner of the wing to give UM a three-point lead it wouldn't relinquish, prevailing 73-68 over the Clemson Tigers for their first conference win.
It was a fitting finish, after Miami (9-3, 1-1 ACC) climbed back from 10 points down with under 10 minutes to play in the contest, switching from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone look and outscoring the Tigers 17-7 across the rest of regulation to send the game into OT, where the Canes’ 7-0 run to conclude the additional period was enough for the road victory.
Chris Lykes’ 27 points was a game-high, with the junior being the only Cane to shoot above 50% from the field Tuesday. Lykes also scored his thousandth career point in the second half.
Kameron McGusty added 15 points, while Vasiljevic logged another 15 in spite of dry personal swaths of the game. The Australian entered Tuesday with a .471 three-point field goal percentage, good for second in the conference. Meanwhile, Keith Stone’s nine rebounds led both teams.
Jim Larrañaga’s team upped the execution level in the second half on many levels. In spite of Clemson’s 13 turnovers in both halves, Miami cashed in on eight points off takeaways after halftime, compared to zero before the intermission. They scored 18 of their 28 points in the paint in the second half and overtime, and recorded higher percentages shooting both overall and from beyond the arc.
Aamir Simms led the Tigers with 21 points, while Clyde Trapp and Curran Scott registered 13 and 10 points respectively.
Without a three-pointer until the 6:50 mark in the first half and struggling offensively for much of the opening 20 minutes, the Canes went on a 9-0 scoring run to take their first lead of the game with 4:12 before the break. In spite of eight giveaways and a field goal percentage below 40 before heading to the locker room, nine Lykes points along with eight from Vasiljevic sent the teams into halftime with a 26-26 stalemate.
Sam Waardenburg opened the second half scoring, but Miami then surrendered a 20-8 run and allowed Clemson to take one of their two separate 10-point leads with 12:56 to play before coming back from behind.
With the rally, the Hurricanes have now won each of their last five games, and nine of their 11 since falling on opening night against Louisville. Waiting nearly two months for a chance at evening their league record, UM used every minute in the Palmetto State to their advantage.
It doesn't get any easier for the Hurricanes as they move away from the holiday season into the meat of the conference schedule, with the Duke Blue Devils visiting the Watsco Center Saturday at 6 p.m.