Clemson snaps 3-game skid with 72-52 win over erratic Pitt

Chase for the Championship

Clemson’s John Newman III (15) tries to get past Pittsburgh’s Eric Hamilton during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

PITTSBURGH — Al-Amir Dawes scored 18 points, Tevin Mack added 16 and Aamir Simms finished with 12 as Clemson continued its mastery of Pittsburgh with a surprising 72-52 rout on Wednesday night.

The Tigers (12-12, 6-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their seventh straight over the Panthers (15-10, 6-8) by emerging from a shooting funk to snap a three-game losing streak. Clemson shot 50% (22 of 44) from the field, including 13 of 22 (59%) from 3-point range after shooting just 22% from 3 during their recent slide.

Justin Champagnie led Pitt with 11 points and Au’Diese Toney chipped in 10 but the Panthers couldn’t seem to figure out Clemson’s zone defense. Pitt shot just 31% (15 of 48) from the floor even with the return of guard Ryan Murphy, who was scoreless in 16 minutes after missing three games while recovering from a concussion.

The Tigers have struggled to score recently, averaging just 48.3 points during the slide they brought to Petersen Events Center. Early on it appeared it would be more of the same. Clemson missed its first five shots and looked out of sorts until Simms started attacking the lane before kicking the ball for open looks behind the 3-point line. The Tigers knocked down six 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes to take a 32-24 lead as the Panthers ended the first half with nearly as many turnovers (seven) as made baskets (eight).

Clemson’s lead ballooned to 50-31 on a layup by Mack before Pitt responded with a 14-1 surge to get within 51-45 on a pair of free throws by Xavier Johnson with 7:03 to go. The Tigers, however, steadied themselves behind Dawes and Simms. Dawes nailed a jumper to restore Clemson’s advantage to double digits. He knocked down a 3-pointer on the Tigers’ next possession as Clemson spoiled Pitt coach Jeff Capel’s 45th birthday by pulling away late.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: The Tigers needed a win desperately if it wanted to stay in the mix in the muddled middle of the ACC. While the NCAAs seem out of reach, a strong finish could provide Clemson with some kind of postseason opportunity.

Pitt: Poised to move to .500 in the conference, the Panthers took a major step backward. Pitt has been unable to adjust when faced with a zone defense all season, too often relying on McGowens or Johnson to bang their way into the lane to create.

UP NEXT

Clemson: Hosts No. 5 Louisville on Saturday. The Tigers fell to the Cardinals 80-62 on Jan. 25.

Pitt: Travels to Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Panthers have dropped each of their last three meetings with the Hokies.

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