CLEMSON - These are crazy days in the ACC, when Georgia Tech spoils Syracuse's Senior Night and N.C. State prevails at Pittsburgh.
So pardon Clemson for failing to care if none of these grinding victories are a thing of beauty. The Tigers will gladly keep stacking wins in the barn, pulling out its fourth in five games with Tuesday night's 58-54 win over Miami at Littlejohn Coliseum.
"We'll take 'em how we can get 'em. A win's a win," junior guard Damarcus Harrison said. "That's the thing: we're a scrappy team. I think we're a tough team, and we fight to the end. We just try to outwork people."
The two teams with the slowest tempos in the nation (according to KenPom.com's possessions-per-game statistic) naturally put on a slugfest, to which the 7,071 fans in attendance have become accustomed.
"We just find a way," junior center Landry Nnoko said. "Find some type of way to get a win, and we did tonight. We just go out every night and compete."
Consider the end of Clemson's 2012-13 season: 12 of its final 15 games were decided by single digits, and the Tigers finished 1-10 with five losses by four or fewer points in the final six weeks of the year.
"Sometimes you're just hoping to win," head coach Brad Brownell said. "When things seem to be going against you a little bit like last year, it's a little bit natural to get that way."
In the Tigers' last 10 games, they've won four times by four points, after losing some tight battles early this season to the likes of UMass and Auburn.
"Frankly, they've taken those lessons, and it's helped us win this year," Brownell said. "But we had to go through some lumps last year. There's more of a belief that we're going to win the game."
Sure, NCAA tournament talk has been put on the backburner. All Clemson (19-10, 10-7 ACC) can control is its next game on the schedule, and Littlejohn has become a safe haven for the Tigers, moving to 13-2 at home this season (a stark improvement from last year's 8-7 clip.)
"We talked at the beginning of the year about having a chance to play in March," Nnoko said. "That's what we're trying to accomplish and we're just trying to focus on our goal."
This was Clemson's only meeting this year with Miami, and the Hurricanes (15-15, 6-11) are a shell of their ACC championship squad from 12 months ago. Yet Miami has been capable out of its own arena, counting North Carolina and Florida State among its seven road victims (plus Arizona State on a neutral court in Anaheim.)
For a change, Clemson utilized a balanced scoring effort. Point guard Rod Hall led the way with 14 points, while Harrison and K.J. McDaniels added a dozen each. McDaniels led all players with nine rebounds; Clemson beat Miami on the boards 31-23, after getting out-rebounded by 16 against Maryland on Sunday.
Before departing with a strained left hamstring, reserve guard Adonis Filer poured in eight much-needed points, all in the second half. He hadn't scored in the first half or in Clemson's previous two games.
The beneficiary of an 18-game league schedule, the Tigers have their fourth season in 62 tries with 10 ACC victories. They've never had 11.
Clemson finishes its regular season with the completion of its three-game homestand Saturday against Pittsburgh (22-8, 10-7), with the winner clinching the fifth seed in next week's ACC tournament. If Clemson loses, it'll settle for the sixth or seventh seed. Either way, the Tigers will open league tournament play Thursday in Greensboro, N.C., against a double-digit seed.
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