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Canes Hoops Recap: Johnson’s Game Winner Stuns Clemson

A tale of two halves sent the Canes to victory at home

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Miami-Florida
Johnson made the game winning basket
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

DJ Vasiljevic was DJ again, Chris Lykes was creating his own shot with Picasso-like precision, but the show was stolen by Zach Johnson as he hit the game winning jump shot from the corner of the key with four-tenths of a second remaining as the Miami Hurricanes stunned the Clemson Tigers 65-64 at the Watsco Center Wednesday night.

The win was Miami’s (11-13, 3-9 ACC) second in their last three games, while Clemson (15-8, 5-6 ACC) saw their four game winning streak snapped.

The Canes led by as much as 10 points in the second half, and nine with 10:24 to play. Clemson whittled down the UM lead and went ahead by a point themselves with 1:16 left as Marcquise Reed hit two free throws.

Following an empty position from each team, Miami had one last prayer with 18 seconds on the clock.

Miami went straight to work, eschewing their final timeout on their way up the court.

“They could do something you aren’t really prepared for,” said head coach Jim Larrañaga on calling the timeout. “They could go zone. And I have a lot of confidence in our guys that they could get a good shot.” Larrañaga said that inbounding the ball out of a timeout is another factor that led him to keep play going.

When Johnson took the shot, time slowed to a snail's pace for Larrañaga.

“When [the shot] hit the backboard I was like ‘oh boy.’ Then it spun around the rim a couple of times, and I thought ‘you know what, that’s got a chance.’ And then it went in.”

Johnson’s made shot was one of seemingly endless baskets from the Hurricanes in the second half. It was a different game after intermission, with the Canes shooting 53 percent on both total and three-point field goals. It was a stark contrast from the first half, when UM shot just 20 percent and 25 percent from beyond the arc.

“I told the guys, we needed to make some three’s,” said Larrañaga at halftime. “Sure enough, first ten minutes [in the second half] we were just terrific.”

Overshadowed by Johnson’s singular shot were the performances from Vasiljevic and Lykes.

Vasiljevic roared out of his dry shooting spell recently in ACC play, going 5-10 from three-point range and 5-7 in the second half, scoring a career-high 22 points.

Lykes also showed the conference and the country why he is among the more underrated prospects in college basketball, with 21 points Wednesday. It’s his second consecutive game with at least 20 points after a 27-point outing Saturday at North Carolina.

Anthony Lawrence also chipped in seven points and a team-high eight rebounds, Sam Waardenburg and Johnson had six points while Ebuka Izundu was held to three points and seven rebounds.

Offensively, Clemson’s three-man platoon in Reed, Elijah Thomas and Shelton Mitchell dominated the scoresheet.

Reed led the Tigers with 19 points, Thomas had 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds, and Mitchell scored 15 points.

The Canes led early in a very low scoring first half, with just 17 combined points in the first ten minutes of the contest as Miami led 11-6.

A Mitchell jump shot gave the Tigers a 26-24 lead as both teams went into halftime.

UM took the early momentum in the second half, going on a 13-0 run over the course of just over a minute-and-a-half, taking a ten point lead with 14:36 remaining in the game. An appearance from Lonnie Walker on the Jumbotron ignited the already loud Watsco crowd.

Clemson went on a run of their own midway through the half, scoring seven consecutive points to cut the Miami lead to four with 8:03 left.

Clemson would hold just one lead in the half as Johnson’s buzzer-beater made sure that was not the only lead that mattered.

The Canes ship up to Boston this weekend to play the Boston College Golden Eagles on Sunday. Tip off is at 6pm ET.