There is no way to sugarcoat it, and no real reason to.
No. 3 Miami escaped Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday night, and was thrilled to do so.
The Hurricanes erased a four-point deficit over the final 1:25 and watched Clemson miss a pair of last-second attempts at the rim, hanging on for a grueling 45-43 win over the Tigers before an announced crowd of 8,998.
“It’s pretty exciting,” UM senior guard Durand Scott said. “We were able to exhale. No matter how ugly it looked, we got it done. A win is a win.”
UM improved to 21-3, 12-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and extended its winning streak to 13 games. Clemson fell to 13-12, 5-8 in league play.
With No. 2 Duke having lost to Maryland on Saturday, UM is likely to moved up one spot when the national rankings are released Monday.
Miami survived despite scoring a season-low 45 points, 25 below its average, and making just three of 19 three-pointers while committing 13 turnovers.
“This is one of those games that if you get frustrated, get angry, your shot’s not going, the call doesn’t go your way, it’s easy for a team to get frustrated, lose your composure,” UM coach Jim Larranaga said. “We were able to stick together, and that made a big difference.”
That composure was tested in the final moments. Trailing 40-38, Scott drove the lane and got the wrong end of a no-call, with Clemson sophomore guard Jordan Roper (who scored a game-high 19) then driving coast to coast for a layup and a 42-38 lead with 1:59 left.
Clemson sophomore swingman K.J. McDaniels missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity, and Miami junior Rion Brown responded by converting a driving three-point play at the other end.
Senior guard Trey McKinney Jones fouled McDaniels, who made one of two free throws with 54.6 seconds left.
Senior forward Kenny Kadji had missed all five three-pointers he had taken but was open on the left wing.
He rattled in his sixth try and ran across midcourt, pumping his right fist as teammates celebrated and giving Miami a one-point lead with 34.7 seconds left.
Kadji had 12 points, the only Hurricane in double figures.
“They passed the ball out to me, and I was wide open,” Kadji said. “My teammates have confidence in me to make a shot, and I have confidence in myself. I was really excited.”
Larranaga joked that he drew the shot up “exactly that way.”
“It’s one of those things where there’s no plays, it’s ‘play basketball,’ ” he said. “We must have called 35 plays and not a single one scored off the play. It’s the player.”
On the ensuing possession, Clemson sophomore guard Rod Hall drove to the right side of the lane, looking for the game-winning layup, but McKinney Jones drew the charge with 13.3 seconds left.
McKinney Jones made one of two free throws, and Clemson had one final chance with 8.6 seconds left.
Hall’s attempted layin rolled off the right side of the rim, and senior forward Devin Booker’s tip went wide as time expired.
Larranaga said afterward that he expected a hard-nosed, defensive game, dating back to his days facing off against Clemson’s Brad Brownell when both were in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“It’s just sticking together,” Scott said. “That’s our motto, our main key. We’re a tight-knit group, going and having fun, and we don’t get frustrated.”