Clemson holds off Nebraska 60-58
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson coach Brad Brownell was pleased his team finally did well in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. He was also happy to beef up the Tigers early season resume for when decisions are made in March.
Jaron Blossomgame scored 15 points, Donte Grantham had a tiebreaking free throw and the Tigers held on despite a wild final stretch for a 60-58 win over Nebraska on Wednesday night.
The Tigers (4-2) won a challenge game for the first time defeating Iowa in 2011, a season after they made their last appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
''It's good. It builds momentum. It helps in terms RPI against a team that's going to have a good RPI in their league,'' Brownell said. ''It gets you going in a good direction. That's important for us right now.''
It looked for a while that Clemson would succumb to Nebraska's deliberate pace designed to make the Tigers work extremely hard on defense and wear down at the end. Instead, Clemson dug in as it overcame a nine-point deficit and led 58-54 on Grantham's 3-pointer with 3:16 to go.
But the Cornhuskers (4-3) tied it up at 58-all on Glynn Watson Jr.'s 3 two minutes later. Grantham followed by making the front end of a one-and-one that put the Tigers up for good. Nebraska, though, had several chances to pull this one out.
Watson missed two jumpers and Anton Gill missed an open shot before turning the ball over. After Avry Holmes hit a foul shot for the final margin with 5 seconds left, Tai Webster failed on a runner in the lane that hit the rim and bounced away.
''Tai got in there on a little bit of an awkward, tough two,'' Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. ''He sat it on the rim, it just didn't go in.''
Grantham finished with nine points and five rebounds for Clemson.
Watson had a game-high 20 points and Webster scored 12. Ed Morrow had 10 points and 12 rebounds for Nebraska.
THE BIG PICTURE
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers showed speed, quick hands and a solid shooting touch in building a nine-point lead in the first half. What Nebraska did not display was a strong front-court game and it cost them in the second half. Its tallest players in 6-foot-11 Jordy Tshimanga and 6-8 Jack McVeigh had little impact early on with two shots combined. They ended 1 of 3 from the field for three points.
Clemson: The Tigers pledged a stronger early season performance to help build an NCAA resume. So far, it hasn't worked out that way. Clemson lost to Xavier and Oklahoma in an Orlando, Florida, tournament. The Tigers also went back to their shooting struggles, going 8 of 25 from the field in the first 20 minutes and making just two of their nine 3-pointers. Things picked up after halftime, as they hit 5-of-6 shots from behind the arc to hold off Nebraska.
Clemson guard Avry Holmes said the Tigers struggled to make shots and turned to their defense to pull the game out. It worked as Clemson held Nebraska to just five baskets in their last 24 attempts. ''We tried to win defensively and stopped worrying about our offense,'' he said. ''It was good to see.''
Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney was in the crowd watching the late-night showcase. He played a time-out game where he was challenged to make a face like the toothy emoji on the big screen scoreboard. When his first-half TV interview was wrapping up, Clemson hit a 3-pointer and Swinney said, ''I need to stay here. We just hit a three.''
The football Tigers head to Orlando, Florida this week to play Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game on Saturday night.
Nebraska starts a two-game homestand on Saturday against South Dakota.
Clemson continues its run of five in a row at home against Coppin State on Sunday.