Clemson survives BC’s upset bid

It was a game Clemson simply couldn’t lose. Couldn’t afford to lose, couldn’t seemingly lose to this particular opponent.

The Tigers didn’t, but the conclusion of their three-game homestand was not without some held breaths for a while. Clemson ultimately shook off an insipid start and sent Boston College packing with a 65-54 win Wednesday night before 8,101 fans at Bon Secours Wellness Arena

BC led 41-37 with 15 minutes remaining, a 16-point underdog smelling an opportunity at both its first ACC win and first road win of this wayward season. However, a spate of 3-pointers fell for Clemson (16-10, 9-5 ACC) to help the Tigers secure their first two-game winning streak in a month.

“Guys stepped up and made a few shots,” junior forward Jaron Blossomgame said. “I made a 3, Donte (Grantham) made one and Avry (Holmes) made a deep one to get us some momentum. That got the crowd involved, and it was really exciting down the stretch to pull away.”

Wednesday was just another night at the office for Blossomgame, a bona fide all-ACC first-team candidate: 23 points, 9-of-17 shooting and eight rebounds, all to lead the Tigers.

Boston College (7-19, 0-13 ACC) established a program record with a 13th consecutive loss. Leading scorer Eli Carter (16.1 points per game) made just one of 17 attempts, culpable on multiple counts: a few in-and-out attempts, some low-percentage tries late in the shot clocks and the dogged defense of Clemson point guard Avry Holmes.

“We wanted to make him tired,” Holmes said. “He doesn’t come out the game a lot, so I wanted to tire his legs every single time.”

Holmes was pretty good himself with the ball, pouring in 17 points including 12 in the second half when the Tigers pulled away.

“Avry was, by far, the man of the match,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “He really defended at a high level — he’s done that a lot this year. Just really guards hard, sets the tone.”

Grantham chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks.

With Carter stuck in the doldrums, and second-leading scorer, five different Eagles players either matched or surpassed their season scoring total by halftime. BC led 34-31 at the break, for just its second halftime edge since Christmas.

“(The players) haven’t packed it in. We’ve probably played our best three games in a row,” said BC coach Jim Christian, referring to recent close calls at home against North Carolina and Syracuse. “Our young guys are getting a little more experience, and just gotta hang in there. It’s not easy, but we’re building some things.”

Eagles 7-foot center Dennis Clifford had 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting, but was also on the business end of Blossomgame’s thunderous dunk in the first half.

Clemson, currently an NCAA Tournament bubble team, closes its regular season with three of its last four on the road — against three hosts (N.C. State, Georgia Tech and BC) with a combined ACC record of 6-32. In particular, Clemson could have a chance to send BC to an 0-18 mark and the ACC’s first winless league slate since Maryland in 1986-87.

But first things first, with conference leading scorer Cat Barber and the dangerous Wolfpack (13-13, 3-10) in Raleigh on Saturday at 3 p.m.

“We’ve proven we can win on the road by beating Syracuse and Wake Forest, but moving forward, we’ve got to carry this momentum,” Blossomgame said. “We’ve won two in a row at home, but it’s going to be a challenge on Saturday.”