LAS VEGAS (AP)Clemson men’s basketball team represented the United States in the World University Games in July and treated it as a strict business trip.
The chemistry built among the players was something they knew would pay off once they entered their rugged ACC schedule in January.
The bond emerged a lot sooner than they thought.
Tevin Mack scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Tigers erased a 15-point deficit to force overtime and eventually topple TCU 62-60 on Sunday night in the heavyweight division of the MGM Resorts Main Event.
Al-Amir Dawes, who finished with eight points, drained a 3-pointer with 1:33 left in overtime to give the Tigers the lead for good.
The 15-point deficit was the second largest overcome by a Tigers team under coach Bard Brownell. Clemson (5-1) extended its win streak to five games. The Tigers haven’t lost since their season-opener against Virginia Tech.
”When we went over to Italy we had a lot of games that came down to a few points, and that’s just when the team that wants it more, finds a way to win,” said Aamir Simms, who added 13 points and 12 rebounds for Clemson. ”I think that just showed tonight with our team, just that grit and that togetherness that we have and the way to fight to the end. Whether it’s a full 40 (minutes) or it goes into overtime we just showed that we wanted it more in the end.”
Desmond Bane led TCU with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Kevin Samuel chipped in with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
After the Tigers used their 15-0 run down the stretch to tie the game at 52, Bane missed two free throws with 4.7 seconds left. At the other end, Simms drove an open lane to the hoop, but Samuel swatted away the potential winning layup at the buzzer to force overtime.
The Horned Frogs – who rank 15th in the nation with a turnover margin of 8.0 per game and 20th in the nation with 20.0 turnovers forced per game – committed 21 turnovers, including six over the last seven-plus minutes of regulation during Clemson’s game-ending run.
”I think we had some ill-advised turnovers for sure,” Bane said. ”We’re a young team and we’re playing together, but this will be something we learn from. Our ball security is something we’ve preached since offseason and I don’t think we did a good enough job today taking care of the ball.”
The Tigers are plus-68 in turnover margin this season.
It was a consistent message Brownell delivered during each timeout down the stretch.
”Just keep getting stops on defense, because that’s what led to us getting scores on offense and that’s what led to us getting back into the game and taking over,” Mack said. ”We definitely had some turnovers too down the stretch, but we were able to play through those, play hard and that’s what made up for some of our mental mistakes.”
TCU, which opened the season 4-0 for the third time in four seasons, dropped to 4-1.
Leading 25-23 at halftime, the Horned Frogs hit five of their first seven shots of the second half and used a 14-5 run out of halftime to pull away from the Tigers.
But as Clemson mixed in its zone defense to rattle the Horned Frogs, the Tigers outscored TCU 24-8 from the 7:19 mark of the second half and through overtime to secure the win.
”That was a remarkable win, it really was,” Brownell said. ”Couldn’t be more proud of our guys for battling the way they did. We didn’t play very well offensively … but I thought our defense was good all day. I told them throughout the game, if we could just defend, defend, defend, at some point we’re gonna make a shot or two and have a chance to make a run.”
TCU: The Horned Frogs are tied with Navy and Utah for the most freshmen of any Division I team. Five of TCU’s 11 frosh are on scholarship, and three contributed on the scoreboard Sunday. Francisco Farabello, PJ Fuller, and Diante Smith combined for nine points.
Clemson: The Tigers had scored 79 or more – including 80-plus in their last three – in each of the games. But a sluggish first half derailed Clemson’s offensive game, as it hit only 8 of 24 (33.3 percent) from the floor over the first 20 minutes.
POWER PLAY: The Tigers are now 1-1 against Power 5 schools, and 4-0 against mid-majors, having beaten Presbyterian, Colgate, Detroit Mercy and Alabama A&M. Clemson’s next four opponents are Power 5 teams: at Minnesota, at Florida State and vs. South Carolina.
MANAGING HOOPS: Wells Hoag was an all-state high school basketball player in South Carolina. This year the sophomore started the season as Clemson’s student manager. Though he wanted to try to walk on as a junior, injuries set the Tigers back, the 6-foot-2 guard was elevated to the active roster on Nov. 20. He made his collegiate debut against Alabama A&M on Nov. 21, playing 71/2 minutes.
TIP-INS: At 1,339 career points, Bane moved into 12th on TCU’s all-time scoring list, passing Mike Jones (1,323, 1997-98). … Per KenPom, the Tigers have an experience rating of 1.30, which ranks 285th (out of 351 teams) in the country. … More than two dozen NBA scouts have been credentialed for the six-year old event. … The Horned Frogs are now 36-4 in the month of November since the 2014-15 campaign. … TCU coach Jamie Dixon, who just earned his 400th career win, fell to 8-1 at in-season tournaments and 14-6 in neutral site games.
TCU faces Wyoming on Wednesday in the consolation game.
Clemson advances to Wednesday’s championship game, there it’ll meet No. 23 Colorado, which looks to become the second Pac 12 team to win the event in as many years. Arizona State won the title last season.
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