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No. 19 Florida State squeaks by Clemson, 76-74

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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton was glad to see his players smiling, laughing and celebrating a win on the road. It had not happened too often for the 19th-ranked Seminoles in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season.

“They were very, very happy in the locker room,” said a relieved Hamilton, whose team rallied after leading most of the way to defeat Clemson 76-74 on Saturday.

The Seminoles (23-6, 11-5) came into Littlejohn Coliseum just 2-5 on the road in league play, including losses in their past two such games, at Notre Dame and at Pittsburgh.

But Xavier Rathan-Mayes hit the go-ahead basket with 1:22 left and Florida State hung on.

“Knowing we can get down on the road and win in tough situations and play the way we did (today) is definitely optimistic for us,” said Rathan-Mayes, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half.

Jonathan Isaac of Florida State blocked Shelton Mitchell’s drive with 11 seconds left after Rathan-Mayes’ final hoop. After Trent Forrest made a free throw for the Seminoles, Marcquise Reed came up short on a mid-range jumper with 5 seconds to go as the Seminoles held on to win their 23rd game in the regular season for the first time since 2008-09.

Florida State kept pace in the Atlantic Coast Conference race, remaining two games behind league leader North Carolina entering the final week of the season.

“This is a very important win for us,” Hamilton said. “It keeps pace and gives us the opportunity to control our destiny.”

It was the latest in a string of near misses for Clemson (14-14, 4-12), which fell to 1-9 in ACC games decided by six points or less. The Tigers’ last five ACC losses came by a combined 12 points.

Florida State looked ready to stretch this one out after Forrest had a basket and two foul shots to put the Seminoles up 69-64 with 4:19 to go. But Jaron Blossomgame answered with a basket and Mitchell hit a 3-pointer to tie things once more.

Blossomgame finished with a game-high 24 points, his 12th game scoring 20 or more this season.

Isaac had 14 points and Dwayne Bacon added 12 for Florida State.

THE BIG PICTURE

Florida State: The Seminoles are one of the ACC’s best teams, but they struggle on the road, winning just two of their first seven games away from Tallahassee. They lost their past two on the road at Notre Dame and at Pitt before coming here. Florida State tapped into those struggles at Clemson, getting outscored 16-10 in the final 7 minutes of the opening half to lead just 38-37. The Seminoles were up on the Tigers 51-25 at halftime in their matchup three weeks ago at Florida State, a 109-61 victory.

Clemson: The Tigers have sought all ACC season for a signature win and put themselves in position to do it once more. Clemson hit 15 first-half free throws and shot 50 percent from the field. Still, it was not enough to keep from getting swept by Florida State for the first time in four seasons with another close defeat.

COLD BACON

Bacon, Florida State’s leading scorer, was kept beneath his season’s average of 16.8 points by the Tigers. Bacon went just 3 of 14 overall and 1 of 6 from 3-point range. It was the fifth time in the past six games that Bacon shot 40 percent or worse from the field.

DEMORALIZED TIGERS

Clemson’s run of almosts seems to have no end this season. Tigers center Sidy Djitte, who had 12 points and nine rebounds, said the team will fight off the disappointment and bounce back for whatever is left of the season. “If we’ve got two games, we’re going to keep fighting for two games,” he said.

UP NEXT

Florida State heads to No. 10 Duke on Tuesday night.

Clemson continues its home stand to end the regular season, facing North Carolina State on Wednesday night.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Clemson’s uphill battle for the NCAA tournament continues with loss to No. 19 Virginia

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London Perrantes knocked down a key go-ahead three-pointer with just under two minutes left as No. 19 Virginia outlasted Clemson for a 77-73 ACC road win.

With the game tied at 70 with two minutes left, Perrantes showed why he’s one of college basketball’s most clutch shooters by burying another game-deciding jumper. The senior point guard finished with a game-high 25 points as he led an efficient offensive effort for Virginia that saw the ‘Hoos shoot 58 percent (29-for-50) from the floor and 55 percent (10-for-18) from three-point range.

Virginia also had a strong outing from forward Marial Shayok, as he finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Isaiah Wilkins added eight points and 13 rebounds.

This is a nice road win for Virginia, especially since they’ve struggled in close games in ACC play. After some recent close losses to Florida State and Pitt in overtime, it was important for Virginia to come out on top on the road against a team with NCAA tournament aspirations.

While this win is solid for Virginia, this loss is potentially catastrophic for Clemson’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Losing against a top-25 team like the Cavaliers isn’t going to hurt too much but this now makes four consecutive losses for the Tigers as they now fall to 1-4 in ACC play and 11-5 overall. Clemson needs all the ACC wins they can get as they try to build up an NCAA tournament resume and the Tigers just squandered a valuable opportunity for a good win against a quality opponent.

Now Clemson has to go on the road at Louisville and host Virginia Tech in the next two games as neither of those two games are going to be easy to win. I think it’s safe to say that we’re getting close to must-win time for this team and the Tigers need to fix things in a hurry to save their season. Looking over Clemson’s resume, their best win at the moment is over South Carolina, so they really need to start picking off some of the ACC’s better teams in a hurry if they want to make it back in the tournament.

Clemson lands four-star Class of 2017 power forward

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Clemson added a key piece to its future on Thursday as four-star Class of 2017 power forward Aamir Simms committed to the Tigers.

The 6-foot-7 Simms is regarded as the No. 90 overall prospect in the Rivals Class of 2017 national rankings as he played well this summer with Team Loaded Virginia during the July live evaluation period. A glue guy who rebounds and plays with a high motor, Simms took an official visit to Clemson earlier this month and committed on a school visit from the Tigers’ staff.

Although he’s a bit undersized as a forward at 6-foot-7, Simms makes up for it with his wingspan and effort. Simms has to improve his offensive skill game, but he showed he’s capable of extending his range to the mid-range at the very least.

Simms joins three-star forward Malik William in Clemson’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

Brogdon’s 18 lead No. 4 Virginia to 64-57 victory

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) Malcolm Brogdon had no doubt of No. 4 Virginia’s fate if it faced this road challenge two months ago.

“This is a game we probably would’ve lost earlier in ACC play,” Brogdon said.

Instead, the Cavaliers recovered after losing a double-digit lead to defeat Clemson 64-57 on Tuesday night and keep alive their long shot bid for an Atlantic Coast Conference title.

“We’re resilient,” said Brogdon, who led Virginia (23-76, 12-5) with 18 points. “It just speaks to our maturity.”

The Cavaliers have indeed grown from the mess that was a 2-3 start – all three defeats on the road – to the ACC season. Now, they have won 10 of 12 and with the right set of circumstances could wind up with a share of first place when the weekend’s over.

“This year we’ve lost some tough ones and they haven’t made excuses,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “They’ve just showed up and played and realized it’s worth the fight. That’s what I like from them.”

The Cavaliers got off to a 12-0 start and looked ready to blow the Tigers out of the building. Instead, Clemson (16-13, 9-8) scratched away and led 47-46 on Gabe DeVoe’s 3-pointer with 6:29 remaining.

That’s when Virginia scored seven straight points, started by Anthony Gill’s three-point play, to gain control toward its third straight 12-win ACC season – a feat last accomplished from 1981-83 when Ralph Sampson patrolled the paint for the Cavaliers.

Gill had 11 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double for Virginia this season. London Perrantes had 13 points, including a 3-pointer after Clemson closed to 53-52 with under 3 minutes remaining.

“We never stop fighting,” Perrantes said. “We’re hoping it helps in the long run and we feel that it has.”

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson with 31 points.

Blossomgame finished two points shy of his career high, set two games ago in a loss at North Carolina State.

“We just aren’t great at any one thing,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We’re pretty good at a lot of things, but one of them breaks down in games and we aren’t good enough or strong enough to overcome it.”

Clemson started 0 for 10 from the field and the Tigers looked like they were going to get blown out in their final regular-season home game. Instead, the Tigers rallied with a 19-9 run to get back in it.

But Brogdon and Perrantes blunted any charge Clemson would make.

When the Tigers sliced the lead to 18-13, Brogdon hit his fourth 3-pointer of the half to extend the margin.

Clemson closed to 28-25 on Blossomgame’s free throws with 2:15 to go, Perrantes connected on a long-range basket to keep Virginia on top.

Brogdon scored 14 points in the half as the Cavaliers led 33-27.

Clemson, as it did in wins here over ranked opponents Louisville, Duke and Miami earlier this season, rallied to move in front. The Tigers, though, could not sustain the run against the Cavaliers’ best-in-the-ACC defense.

Clemson has lost five of its past seven games by an average margin of four points.

TIP-INS

Virginia: The Cavaliers are looking to win at least 23 games for a fourth straight season, something they had not done in more than three decades since 1980-83 when they were led by Sampson.

Clemson: The Tigers will finish with more ACC victories than non-conference wins this season. Clemson has nine league wins so far. It went just 7-5 in its pre-ACC schedule.

VIRGINIA HISTORY

Bennett said his players aren’t concerned about matching Virginia’s elite basketball history, just about enjoying the ride they’re on at the moment. Bennett said the joy in the game comes from playing well and that’s what Virginia has done the past six weeks. “The accomplishments you get, `OK, that’s nice,’ and maybe you look back on it at some point,” he said. “We talk a lot about just being ready.”

BLOSSOMGAME’S RUN

Blossomgame had more than 50 percent of his team’s points (31 of 57), something that had not occurred for the Tigers since Skip Wise scored 38 of their 75 points in a game against Penn in 1974.

UP NEXT

Virginia closes the regular season against No. 11 Louisville on Saturday.

Clemson finishes ACC regular season play at Boston College on Saturday.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Another ranked team, No. 5 Texas A&M, falls

AP Photo/Sarah Bentham
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Maine 105, Hartford 100 (OT)

The Black Bears surpassed their conference win total from a season ago Wednesday night, moving to 3-4 in America East play with a five-point overtime win at Hartford (they went 2-14 in league play last season). Aaron Calixte scored 23 points and Till Gloger 22 to lead the way for Bob Walsh’s team, with Hartford’s Pancake Thomas leading all scorers with 29 points. Trailing by seven with 2:10 remaining in overtime, Maine went on a 12-0 run to grab control of the game.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Arkansas 74, No. 5 Texas A&M 71: The Razorbacks picked up a nice win at home, holding off the Aggies who suffered their first loss in SEC play. Anthlon Bell and Dusty Hannahs scored 17 apiece and Moses Kingsley posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds on the night for the winners. As for the Aggies, despite Danuel House scoring 24 they were out of character for most of the game and that cost them in the end.

Clemson 73, Pittsburgh 60: The Tigers finished off what at first glance appeared to be an arduous five-game stretch with a 13-point win over the Panthers, going 4-1 with the lone defeat coming at Virginia. Jaron Blossomgame scored 22 points to lead four Clemson players in double figures, and defensively they limited Pitt to 38.2 percent shooting.

But here’s the question to be asked in the aftermath of this game: should there be concern over Pittsburgh’s résumé? Their best non-conference win came over Davidson, and their best ACC wins came against Syracuse (sans Jim Boeheim) and Notre Dame. That three-game stretch of Virginia (2/6), at Miami (2/9) and at North Carolina (2/14) looms large for Jamie Dixon’s team as a result.

No. 20 Kentucky 88, Missouri 54: Beating a bad Mizzou team like they stole something isn’t all that noteworthy. But the performances of Derek Willis and Skal Labissiere are noteworthy for Kentucky, especially when considering their chances of winning the SEC and playing deep into march. Labissiere didn’t grab a rebound, but in 18 minutes he accounted for 12 points and five blocks. As for Willis, he continued his run of good play by scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Over the last four games the junior’s averaging 12.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. If he can continue on that path, and Labissiere become a more consistent contributor, the Wildcats will be a far more dangerous team.

STARRED

Josh Adeyeye, Jacksonville: 35 points, shooting 13-for-21 from the field, and eight rebounds in the Dolphins’ 78-69 win at FGCU.

Keon Johnson, Winthrop: Johnson shot 10-for-13 from three, scoring 36 points, in the Eagles’ 97-72 win over Charleston Southern.

Patrick McCaw, UNLV: 25 points, shooting 8-for-11 from the field, four rebounds, four assists and five steals in the Runnin’ Rebels’ 87-77 win over Boise State.

STRUGGLED

Mike Crawford and Jermaine Bishop, Saint Louis: Crawford and Bishop combined to shoot 3-for-20 from the field in the Billikens’ blowout loss at Dayton. As a team SLU shot 3-for-24 from three and 27.3 percent from the field.

Kareem Canty, Auburn: Canty struggled in a loss at Ole Miss, scoring eight points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field.

Wes Clark, Missouri: Clark scored 11 points in the Tigers’ loss at No. 20 Kentucky, but he did so on 3-for-16 shooting.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Damion Lee (29) and Trey Lewis (22) combined to score 51 points as No. 16 Louisville won 91-83 at Virginia Tech. As a team the Cardinals shot 12-for-18 from three and 52.9 percent from the field. Jalen Hudson (27) and Seth Allen (26) combined to score 53 for the Hokies, but their efforts were not enough.
  • No. 17 Baylor trailed by as much as 12 in the first half before coming back to beat Oklahoma State 69-65 in Stillwater. Taurean Prince scored 17 points and Rico Gathers Sr. added 16 points and nine boards for the Bears, who racked up 13 steals thanks in large part to increased activity in their 1-1-3 zone defense.
  • No. 21 Purdue, playing without injured forward Caleb Swanigan (ankle), held off Minnesota to win 68-64 at The Barn. Vince Edwards scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the way, with A.J. Hammons adding 16 points and eight boards.
  • No. 22 Wichita State has now won ten straight games, as they beat Loyola (Chicago) 80-54. Six Shockers scored at least eight points, with Shaquille Morris’ 12 leading the way, and Gregg Marshall’s team shot 53.8 percent from the field. By comparison, the Ramblers made just 39.2 percent of their field goals.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Coastal Carolina beat UNC Asheville 68-66 in overtime, dropping the Bulldogs into a three-way tie atop the Big South. UNC Asheville is now tied with High Point and Winthrop at 7-3, with those two picking up wins Wednesday night.
  • Three days after handing No. 13 SMU its first defeat, Temple did some harm to its résumé with a 64-61 loss at East Carolina. Prince Williams led three Pirates in double figures with 18 points.
  • Keep an eye on Saint Joseph’s in the A-10. The Hawks have now won six straight and 13 of their last 14 after beating UMass 78-70 in Philadelphia. Isaiah Miles, one of the nation’s most improved players, went for 27 and 12 in the win.
  • Also a game behind 7-0 VCU in the loss column is Dayton, which moved to 7-1 in the A-10 with a 73-37 win over Saint Louis. Kendall Pollard and Dyshawn Pierre combined for 30 points and 16 boards.
  • Navy’s six-game win streak came to an end, as the Midshipmen fell 63-58 at American to fall to 6-2 in Patriot League play. Bucknell, which was off Wednesday night, remains in first with an 8-1 record.
  • Josh Adeyeye went off for 35 points to lead Jacksonville to a 78-69 win at FGCU. Those two teams are now tied for second in the A-Sun with 4-2 record, with reigning champion North Florida (6-0) now having a two-game lead.
  • Seton Hall took care of business against St. John’s beating the Red Storm 79-60. That result won’t make waves, but that’s better than suffering a loss that can do some serious damage to a team’s tournament credentials.
  • Also in that category in the Big East is Butler, which beat DePaul 67-53. All three of the Bulldogs’ conference wins have come against the Blue Demons (twice) and St. John’s.
  • Duncan Robinson led four in double figures with 18 points as Michigan beat Rutgers 68-57 in Ann Arbor.
  • Georgia Tech went on the road and beat NC State 90-83, despite Cat Barber scoring a game-high 36 points. Three Yellow Jackets scored at least 20 points, with Marcus Georges-Hunt tallying 26.
  • Colorado moved to 5-3 in the Pac-12 with a 91-75 win over Stanford in Boulder. George King scored 23 points off the bench and Josh Fortune added 21 for the Buffaloes.
  • UC Irvine remained undefeated in Big West play with a 73-63 win at CSUN. The Anteaters are now 17-5 overall, which represents their best start to a season since 2000-01.
  • Jakob Poeltl scored 21 points and grabbed nine boards and Brandon Taylor and Kyle Kuzma added 15 apiece as Utah beat California 73-64. The Golden Bears are now 1-7 away from Haas Pavilion this season.
  • When Patrick McCaw plays well, so does UNLV. The sophomore dropped 25 on Boise State as the Runnin’ Rebels won 87-77. Stephen Zimmerman Jr. added 18 and eight boards and Derrick Jones Jr. 17 for UNLV, which is now 4-1 under interim head coach Todd Simon.

Clemson claims another ranked victim in No. 8 Miami

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Clemson began its toughest stretch of the season Sunday night against No. 16 Louisville, with that being followed by games against No. 9 Duke and No. 8 Miami. And given how the Tigers played in non-conference play, going 0-3 wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. However Brad Brownell’s team has been playing good basketball of late, and Saturday afternoon the Tigers picked up their third straight win over a ranked opponent, beating the Hurricanes 76-65 in Greenville.

So within a calendar week, Clemson’s knocked off No. 16 Louisville, No. 9 Duke and No. 8 Miami. And now they’re 5-1 in ACC play and have the look of a team that could have some staying power in what should be a very tough conference race.

The biggest change for the Tigers has been the play of junior forward Jaron Blossomgame, who scored 25 points against the Hurricanes and has now scored in double figures in all six of Clemson’s ACC games. Blossomgame played part of the non-conference slate at less than full strength, and that had an impact from a consistency standpoint. Now back to 100 percent, he’s been a consistent scorer on multiple levels for a team that at times struggled offensively before ACC play began.

Against Miami the junior was productive both inside and out, scoring his 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field (2-for-3 3PT) and 5-for-5 from the foul line. Consistency’s also been a key for sophomore forward Donte Grantham, who scored 14 points Saturday and has reached double figures in four of Clemson’s five ACC wins. The triumvirate of Blossomgame, Grantham and Landry Nnoko took advantage of a shorthanded Duke front court on Wednesday, and they once again held the edge against a Miami front court with no such depth concerns.

Add in 18 points and six assists from Jordan Roper, who outplayed Miami’s Angel Rodriguez (three points on 1-for-7 FG, three assists), and Clemson was able to do enough to close out another impressive victory.

As is the case with players such as Grantham from an individual standpoint, the difference in Clemson from non-conference play to now boils down to one word: consistency. Now that guys who were expected to be key contributors when the season began are proving themselves to be reliable night in and night out, Clemson’s been able to string together wins few expected them to get.

This tough stretch of games isn’t done yet, as the Tigers’ next two games are against Virginia (in Charlottesville) and Pittsburgh, but at this rate it wouldn’t be wise to automatically count Clemson out.