CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Brad Brownell wasn’t sure what he was watching in the first half as the 19th-ranked Tigers looked destined for another quick fall from the national rankings.
Then Aamir Simms hit a go-ahead basket for a second straight game and Clemson rallied from nine-points down in the second half to beat NCState 74-70 in overtime Tuesday night.
“Thankfully, our guys woke up,” Brownell said, “and responded the way good teams do.”
Maybe it’s time to see how good Clemson (9-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) can be in a power league where none of the usual powers have yet emerged.
Nick Honor, a high-scoring Fordham transfer, had 21 points off five 3-pointers, including one that tied things at 62 in the final minute of regulation.
It was Honor’s highest point total since joining Clemson after sitting out last season.
“Whoever needs to step up, can,” Honor said.
Although, it took a while for the Tigers to get going.
Clemson, tied with Virginia Tech in the rankings at No. 19, lives on its defense and entered as the ACC leader (and third nationally) in fewest points allowed. But the Wolfpack (6-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hit 15 of 27 shots in the opening half to lead 39-32 at the break.
They extended it to 41-32 on Manny Bates’ bucket with about 18 minutes remaining as Clemson struggled to score.
But Honor found his touch with five straight points to draw Clemson within 42-39. The Tigers were still behind 59-53 with less than five minutes left before tying things on Honor’s final 3 with 38.2 seconds to play.
“I didn’t really think about it,” he said. “I just let it go.”
In overtime, NCState grabbed the lead a final time on DJ Funderburk’s 3-pointer with 3:12 to go.
That’s when Simms, a senior, got the ball down low for a basket to put Clemson ahead for good.
Simms, just 3-of-11 shooting for eight points in the game, added another bucket before Honor sliced through the lane for a layup that gave the Tigers a 72-68 lead.
Devon Daniels drew the Wolfpack within two points with a pair of free throws. But Clemson put things away on freshman PJ Hall’s inside shot that bounced off the rim before falling through with 10.8 seconds left.
Simms hit the winner last Saturday with 19 seconds to go in Clemson’s 66-65 win at Miami last Saturday that returned the Tigers to the national rankings.
Honor, a high-scoring Fordham transfer, had a season’s best in points.
Funderburk finished with 20 points while Daniels had 18 points and 10 rebounds for NC State, which was looking to upset its second ranked team in three games after toppling then-17th-ranked North Carolina 79-76 on Dec. 22.
NCState had little difficulty penetrating Clemson’s normally strong defense — the Tigers lead the ACC with only 56.2 points allowed per game this season — and shot 56% in the opening half including six 3-pointers.
That didn’t continue in the second half.
North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts said his team showed composure down the stretch in its previous two victories over the Tar Heels and Boston College. “Tonight, I thought we fell apart at the end,” he said.
NCState returns home to play Miami on Saturday, while Clemson plays at North Carolina on Saturday night.
Davidson 61, Duquesne 48
PITTSBURGH — Kellan Grady recorded 13 points as Davidson got past Duquesne 61-48 on Tuesday night, giving coach Bob McKillop his 600th career win.
Carter Collins added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats, who held the Dukes to 28.8%, the lowest mark of the season for a Davidson opponent.
Hyunjung Lee had 12 points for Davidson (6-4, 2-1 Atlantic 10 Conference). Sam Mennenga added seven rebounds.
Davidson scored 25 first-half points, a season low for the team.
Marcus Weathers had 12 points for the Dukes (2-3, 1-2). Michael Hughes added three blocks. Maceo Austin had six rebounds.
Gardner-Webb 85, Campbell 70
BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. — Jacob Falko had 17 points to lead five Gardner-Webb players in double figures as the Runnin’ Bulldogs topped Campbell 85-70 on Tuesday.
Jamaine Mann and D’Maurian Williams added 14 points apiece for the Runnin’ Bulldogs (3-6, 2-2 Big South). Jaheam Cornwall chipped in 13 points, and Kareem Reid had 11. Mann also had eight rebounds, while Williams posted six rebounds.
Messiah Thompson had 18 points for the Fighting Camels. Jesus Carralero added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Whitfield had 11 points.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs leveled the season series against the Fighting Camels with the win. Campbell defeated Gardner-Webb 70-61 on Monday.