Tigers top Pitt in battle of ACC unbeatens for sole spot atop league

Brevin Galloway was one of four double-figure scorers for the Tigers in the win to stay in first place in the ACC. (Photo: Charles Leclaire/USATODAY)

The Clemson men’s basketball team surged to a sole place atop the ACC standings and matched a school-best conference start with a 75-74 win at Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The Tigers improved to 5-0 in ACC play for the first time since 1996-97 – grabbing a third road win that stretch – to be in sole possession of first place in the standings. Clemson stretched its streak to 10 in a row over the Panthers (11-5, 4-1).

After a back-and-forth affair early, Clemson (13-3) built a lead on the strength of its inside play, outscoring the Panthers 12-2 in the paint to an 18-10 lead (Clemson finished with a 34-14 advantage in the paint). The Tigers made eight of their first 11 shots in the stretch.

The Tigers’ defensive efforts helped build a cushion as well, holding Pitt to 26% shooting while extending their edge to 10 points, 13 minutes in.

Pitt controlled the action largely down the stretch in the half, however, taking its first lead with just over two minutes left. A buzzer-beater jumper from Nate Santos gave the Panthers a 40-38 edge at the break.

Clemson regained the lead early in the second session with a Brevin Galloway 3-pointer, but that was quickly answered with a trey from the other side.

After hitting three 3-pointers in the first half, Clemson again surged to the lead with three 3-pointers early in the second half. The Panthers weren’t going away, however, and as the team’s shooting percentages began to even, Pitt matched its largest lead yet with a 63-59 edge with under eight minutes to go and extended it out to their game-high six points with six to go.

After hitting 54% of its first-half shots, Clemson was held to 28% shooting in the second half as Pitt built an eight-point lead.

The Tigers went back to their stars to close the gap, with Chase Hunter and PJ Hall cutting the deficit to two points with just over three minutes left for the Panthers to call a timeout. A Chauncey Wiggins runner on Clemson’s next possession tied things up not long after, and a Galloway jumper gave the Tigers a 71-69 lead with just under two minutes left.

After Pitt evened things up, Hunter came back with another clutch bucket to take back the lead with under a minute to go. A lob attempt at the hoop went awry by the Panthers and they sent Hunter Tyson to the free throw line with under 10 seconds left. Tyson hit both attempts to take a four-point lead.

Pitt’s Nike Sibande connected on a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds to go and Clemson ran out the clock on the ensuing inbounds play.

“They made some big-time shots and plays. The players are the ones who are doing it and we’re trying to orchestrate things to help them. We have good players that are making big-time plays and that’s why we’re winning Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “To score the way we did down the stretch — that’s not easy to do and we’ve done that in several games. That’s why we’re having success. You’ve got to be able to make some big-time plays. Your players have to finish it. We did it at Virginia Tech and we did it tonight.”

Pitt’s Jamarius Burton scored a game-high 28 points, while Clemson had four in double figures with Hunter (17), Tyson (15), Galloway (12) and Hall (12). Tyson added 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double in as many ACC games.

Alex Hemenway (9.8 PPG) missed a fourth consecutive game due to a foot injury.

Going back to last season, Clemson has won nine regular-season ACC games in a row now.

Clemson is back in Littlejohn Coliseum for its first home game of the new year on Wednesday at 9 pm versus 2-14 Louisville (ACC Network).

“We’ve just got another game on Wednesday,” Brownell said when the idea of ​​a school-best 6-0 ACC record was brought up. “We’ve got 15 more of these to go (conference games). We don’t need to worry about all that. Let’s just get everybody there at 9 o’clock and come see these guys play. They’ve certainly deserved it and earned it. We’ve played in two great environments this week (Pitt and Virginia Tech) and played well. So there’d be nothing better to see a full house at 9 o’clock for Louisville.”


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