Grant leads Clemson past Miami
CLEMSON, S.C. - Clemson coach Brad Brownell told his new players that if they hung together and believed in their team, success would come to the Tigers. Now, Brownell's got his first ACC win to prove it. Jerai Grant had 18 points and Demontez Stitt 17 as Clemson won its seventh straight game, 79-72 over Miami on Saturday night. A month ago, the Tigers appeared on verge of collapse, struggling to run Brownell's motion offense after successive losses at home to Michigan, to rival South Carolina and Florida State in its ACC opener.Boy, how things have changed. The Tigers (12-4, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) held strong despite nearly losing all of a 13-point lead. Grant, the nephew of former Clemson and NBA standout Horace Grant, dominated the middle while Stitt and fellow guard Andre Young answered whenever Miami (11-5, 0-2) closed in. "One win does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, we're where we need to be," Brownell said. "But it's progress." Grant added 11 rebounds for his third double-double this season and Stitt had 11 of his points in the second half, including five in a 12-0 run to start the half. "We've gotten so much better since those three losses in a row we had," Grant said. "We've been playing harder every step of the way."Miami got within 74-71 on Durand Scott's banker with 1:16 left, but Andre Young followed with a high, floating basket as the shot clock ran out to extend the Tigers' lead. Scott finished with a game-high 24 points. It was Clemson's fourth consecutive win over the Hurricanes. The Tigers led by as many as 13 points in the second half before the Hurricanes tightened things up. Malcolm Grant's 3-pointer drew Miami to 57-55 with 8 minutes left before Stitt and Milton Jennings hit a pair of long-range shots to increase Clemson's lead. Scott powered the Hurricanes' final charge with a running banker to bring his team within 3. Clemson used most of the shot clock before starting a play. Stitt's drive was cut off and he shoveled the ball to Young, who had to dribble to keep his balance and was swarmed by defenders. But Young, at 5 foot 11, backed up and floated a high arching desperation shot that went in as the buzzer sounded. Young said he was right in front of Brownell at the end, the coach reminding him to attack the basket. "I did and I was able to knock the shot down," Young said. Miami could get no closer. Both teams had lost their ACC openers and were eager to pick up a league win. The Tigers fell at Florida State 75-69 to start the ACC on Dec. 12, the last of a three-game losing streak that looked like it might take the air out of Brownell's team. Instead, Clemson had won its past six heading into this contest. Miami had won nine of 10 to close 2010 before losing at No. 1 Duke 74-63 this past Sunday. Hurricanes coach Frank Haith took no solace from coming close again on the road before losing. "Those days are over," he said. "We want to win." It's the first time in Haith's five seasons that Miami has opened the ACC with two losses. Then again, the Hurricanes came out like they hadn't shaken off that defeat at Cameron Indoor. Stitt hit a pair of 3s, Jerai Grant controlled the offensive boards and the Tigers' tight defense kept Miami off balance to lead 12-6. Clemson stretched that margin to 32-23 after Tanner Smith's jumper with 5 minutes left in the half. Smith punched the air as Tiger fans cheered after Haith called timeout. Whatever he said certainly seemed to settle the Hurricanes, who closed the half with a 10-2 run as their talented New York City backcourt took control. Malcolm Grant, of Brooklyn, hit two foul shots and a jumper, and Scott, also from the city, hit four free throws in the final 70 seconds to cut the lead to 34-33.