Simms scores 16 as Tigers stop losing streak against No. 25 Louisville


by - Senior Writer -
Simms reacts to a first-half basket. (Photo courtesy ACC)
Simms reacts to a first-half basket. (Photo courtesy ACC)

CLEMSON – Clemson entered Wednesday's contest riding a three-game losing streak and needed a big game from senior Aamir Simms if it wanted to break that streak. Simms scored a game-high 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and dished out four assists as Clemson defeated No. 25 Louisville 54-50 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Clemson improves to 10-4 overall and 4-4 in the ACC, while Louisville falls to 10-4 overall and 5-3 in the league.

Al-Amir Dawes added 15 points for the Tigers, including 12 in a big second half. Hunter Tyson added 10 points as the only other player in double figures. The Tigers were just 7-35 from 3-point range (20 percent), but Louisville was just 5-24 (20.8 percent) and the Cardinals were just 18-57 from the floor (31.6 percent).

"This week has been a good time for us to regroup. We had a couple days of practice where we worked on ourselves. We prioritized fundamental drills just to try to get us back, mentally, to the right place," head coach Brad Brownell said. "We did a really good job. Al [-Amir Dawes] is an outstanding on-ball defender, and Aamir [Simms] is a pretty good ball-screen defender for a big. We did a good job of rotating. Our scrambling was good, and we had much better discipline on close-outs. We did a really good job of swarming the ball, and it really paid off. We didn't let [Louisville] get any offensive rhythm. We kept them at bay.

"I'm just really proud of our players, especially our seniors. They're coming off a hard week, but they've bounced back these last 72 hours. This was a great team win."

The first half was a defensive affair. Aamir Simms scored seven points in the first seven minutes of the first half as Clemson jumped out to an 11-5 lead. The Cardinals gradually fought back and took a 12-11 lead on a jumper by Samuell Williamson. Al-Amir Dawes put the Tigers back in front 14-12 on a 3-pointer from the right wing, and the rest of the was back-and-forth as Louisville took a 22-21 lead into halftime. Clemson went the last three minutes of the first half without a point.

Louisville scored two quick baskets out of the half to take a 26-21 lead, but Dawes got hot and scored Clemson’s next eight points. His 3-pointer with just over 16 minutes to play tied the game at 29-29. Louisville went back up 31-29, but Simms followed his miss with a tap-in to tie the game at 31-31 with 14:44 to play in the game.

Both teams went cold again, but Alex Hemenway’s drive to the basket helped end the drought. Hemenway was fouled on the drive and hit one of two free throws to give the Tigers a 32-31 lead at the 11:39 mark.

The Tigers continued to struggle from the floor – settling for 3-pointers instead of taking the ball to the hoop – and went through a 1-for-9 stretch that saw Louisville take a 35-34 lead. Hunter Tyson then drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key and shook off a defender to hit a baseline jumper on the ensuing possession to give the Tigers a 39-37 lead heading into the under-8 media timeout.

Simms hit two free throws two minutes later to give the Tigers a 41-37 lead, and then both teams went another 90 seconds without scoring. Clyde Trapp ended that drought with a head fake and right-hander in the lane and Clemson had its biggest lead since early in the first half at 43-37 with 4:20 to play.

Dre Davis of Louisville snapped the Cards’ scoring drought with a jumper that made it 43-39 with just over four minutes to play, but Simms extended the Tigers’ advantage back to six at 45-39 with a layup at the 3:39 mark of the second half.

Dawes later hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key that gave Clemson its biggest lead at 49-41 with just 2:51 to play, but the Cardinals scored four straight points to make it 49-45 with just under two minutes to play. Needing points, the Tigers came out of a timeout and threw the ball to Simms in the lane and he promptly tossed in a right-hander for the bucket. He was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to give the Tigers a 52-45 lead.

The Cardinals wouldn’t go away, however, with Williamson nailing a short jumper that made it 52-47 with just 36 seconds remaining on the clock. However, Dawes hit two free throws with 27 seconds remaining and the Tigers were able to run out the clock on the win.

Clemson returns to action Saturday, traveling to Durham and Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on a Duke in a noon tip (ESPN2).


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