Defensive stops came easy for Clemson's Tigers in the first half of their game against Boston College Saturday at Conte Forum.
By the end, every one counted as the Tigers survived a late-game Eagle comeback and a bizarre final 10 seconds and claimed a 62-60 victory in their ACC opener.
Clemson, 10-3, held BC to four first-half field goals and forced 10 turnovers while cruising to a 31-17 e lead.
The Eagles opened the second half with a 6-0 run, but the Tigers weathered one storm, and later another, and led by nine, 56-47, after an inside basket by Landry Nnoko off a K.J. McDaniels feed with 3:11 remaining.
At that point, Brad Brownell said "things fell apart" for the Tigers.
Clemson turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions, Jordan Roper was blocked on a drive to the basket, and Rod Hall lost the ball in the backcourt against the press. Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlan, who combined to score BC's final 25 points, cut the Tigers' margin to 59-56 with 46 seconds left.
The Tigers went back up by five when Adonis Filer beat a double-team, and the shot clock, with a spin move in the lane, putting the Tigers ahead 61-56 with 11 seconds remaining.
Filer's points stood up for the victory, but only after some nail-biting moments for the Tigers. Nnoko inexplicably fouled Hanlan on a drive for a layup, and last season's ACC freshman of the year completed a three-point play to trim the Tigers' lead to 61-59 with 7.9 seconds remaining.
The Tigers used their final timeout avoiding a turnover on the inbounds play, and then McDaniels made one of two free throws with 6.7 seconds left.
Leading by three, Brownell opted to foul Hanlan with 1.9 seconds left. He made the first free throw, intentionally missed the second, but slipped past Damarcus Harrison to grab his own rebound and was fouled again.
Down two points with a chance to tie, Hanlan - who had made his first nine free throw attempts - missed his first shot and then intentionally missed the second, hoping for a tip-in. This time Josh Smith tapped the ball to McDaniels, who wrapped up the rebound as time expired.
While happy to have escaped with an ACC road win, Brownell said he nonetheless felt bad for Hanlan.
"It's a tough thing when a kid has to intentionally miss," Brownell said. "He's making everything, and then forces a miss. You don't know what that does to the psyche of the kid. We were very fortunate that it all worked out."
Brownell said the Tigers' first 20 minutes "was great on both ends."
"We only turned it over once, and we guarded about as hard as you can guard," he said. "We knew they'd make a run, and I thought the guys weathered the storm.
"Then things just fell apart. We had four guards in the game, and that's when the turnovers got worse. It was a new situation, on the road in the ACC, really wanting to get the road win. We got a little nervous trying not to lose, and we almost got beat."
The Tigers had a trio of double-figure scorers, led by McDaniels with 16. Roper added 15 and Rod Hall had 12. McDaniels led the team in rebounding with nine, while Hall had seven assists.
The Tigers shot 43.1 percent from the floor, made 12 of 16 free throws and turned the ball over nine times, including eight in the second half.
Hanlan led BC with 27 points, including 22 in the second period.
The victory snapped a three-game Clemson losing streak at Conte Arena, where the Tigers have now won two of eight games.
"Defensively, we played an excellent first 20 minutes and we were pretty good the rest of the game," Brownell said. "Offensively, we're still a work in progress. We're going to have to find different combinations, because we're just not as good as we need to be right now."
The Tigers will play their next two games at home - Thursday, Jan. 9, at 7 p.m. against Florida State, and Saturday, Jan. 11, at 2 p.m. against Duke.