CLEMSON — Both stumbling to the finish, Clemson and Miami basketball aim to stop the bleeding in Saturday’s regular season finale in Coral Gables, Fla.
The No. 6 Hurricanes (23-6, 14-3 ACC) have lost 3-of-4 and come off their first home loss of the season, on a buzzer-beater tip-in by Georgia Tech’s Marcus Georges-Hunt Wednesday.
In the three losses, Miami, which had boasted one of the better defenses in the ACC all season, surrendered 77 points and 53 percent shooting per game. Senior center Reggie Johnson, who brought a midseason boost coming off a hand injury, scored just six points combined in the defeats.
“(Georgia Tech) executed offensively and made some big shots to steal a game,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “I’m sure that got Miami’s attention even more.”
Tigers head to No. 6 Miami
Clemson lost by 2 in first matchup
The Tigers (13-16, 5-12) have had more than their fair share of problems down the stretch, losing 8-of-9, five-straight overall and four consecutive to close out the ACC season in Littlejohn Coliseum.
Without sophomore swing-man K.J. McDaniels the last three games, their problems have increased.
In two of the three, Clemson didn’t have a single block, after McDaniels had a blocked shot in each of his previous 16 games. After posting back-to-back double-figure scoring games, freshman guard Jordan Roper has shot 6-of-30 for 5.7 points per game in McDaniels’ absence.
On the plus side, the Tiger seniors have stepped up, both posting double-figures in each of the games. With another double-digit scoring effort against Miami, Milton Jennings can set a career-high run of five consecutive games doing so, after not posting back-to-back double-figure games on the season previously.
McDaniels is listed as questionable for Saturday’s matchup, but Brownell said he was “optimistic” he would play some.
For a second-straight road trip, Clemson hits town on Senior Day, and five top ‘Canes contributors will be honored at the BankUnited Center for a 2:30 p.m. tipoff.
Miami is playing for its first-ever outright conference crown, but has already wrapped up the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
With a win, Clemson can place as high as a 9-seed for a noon start next Thursday (matched up with an 8-seed), but with a loss, is locked in for the 11-seed against the 6-seed in the nightcap (after 9 p.m.).
The Tigers can continue a run of six consecutive seasons with at least one win over a ranked opponent, but one Saturday would be the first over a top-10 conference team on the road since 1995 (at Duke).
“As a coach, you put your guys in a position where in the last five minutes of the game on the road – they have a chance,” Brownell said. “Usually, it’s going to come down some guys making some plays to win that game. Certainly Georgia Tech had (Chris) Bolden and Marcus Georges-Hunt with a great tip and they made a couple shots and a couple big plays at the end of the game to win.
“That’s what you try to do as a coach. Give your guys some confidence and give your guys a plan and hope they can execute it.”
The Tigers took Miami to the wire in Littlejohn, holding Hurricanes guards Durand Scott and Shane Larkin to 3-of-16 shooting, but a late runner by Rod Hall and attempted tip-in didn’t fall in the 45-43 loss.
“It was a great first game,” Brownell said, “and we hope to play well and put ourselves in another position where we have a chance to win at the end.”