While most Clemson fans are paying attention to the football team playing for the national championship, the Tigers basketball team is suddenly the surprise of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Jaron Blossomgame scored 17 points and Avry Holmes added 16 points to lead Clemson (10-6, 3-1 ACC) to a 66-62 win over No. 16 Louisville on Sunday. The Tigers – picked to finish 12th in the league – had lost 10 in a row to ranked ACC opponents.
But Clemson used its defense and got a little help from foul trouble to beat the Cardinals (13-3, 2-1).
Louisville’s leading scorer, Damion Lee, had six points on 2-of-12 shooting, well below his average of 17 points, which ranks fourth in the ACC. Trey Lewis scored 10 points but missed 16 of his 19 shots. Chinanu Onuaku, the Cardinals’ best inside player, led his team with 14 points but was out much of the second half with foul trouble.
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The Cardinals tried to make up for it with outside shooting. But they missed their first 15 3-point attempts and finished the game shooting 3 of 23 behind the arc, their worst performance by far this season.
“I knew this type of game was going to happen sooner or later. I’ve been trying to warn our guys about it,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “You’ve got to have your defense every night and we haven’t. We got burned because of it.”
Clemson led for the entire second half but had to hang on late. The Tigers were up by 11 with 3:34 to go before Lewis hit Louisville’s first 3 of the game.
The Cardinals kept whittling the deficit down, and with Clemson up 64-58, Sidy Djitte fouled Louisville’s Jaylen Johnson on a dunk. Johnson missed the free throw, but Quniton Snider got the rebound and the Cardinals made two more free throws to trail 64-62 with 5.5 seconds to go.
Holmes was fouled and sank both foul shots to seal the win.
It doesn’t get any easier for Clemson. No. 14 Duke comes to Greenville on Wednesday, the second of five straight games against ranked ACC teams.
Blossomgame hopes Tigers fans out in Arizona check out his team too.
“Hopefully we can carry over after football wins the national championship,” he said.