Clemson ends road trip by bouncing Butler

by - Senior Writer -

Anaheim -- The 19th-ranked Clemson Tigers ended their California road trip with a bang, erasing a 12-point second half deficit and getting a big block from big man Trevor Booker at the end in knocking off 12th-ranked Butler 70-69 in the 76 Classic in Anaheim.

Tiger point guard Demontez Stitt made two free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining to put the Tigers ahead, and Booker blocked a final Butler shot and deflected an inbounds pass to seal the win for Clemson (6-1), and send the Bulldogs (4-2) to their second loss of the tournament.

Stitt said he likes having the ball in his hands at the end of games.

"I like having the ball in my hands at the end of the game," said Stitt. "Coach [assistant coach Ron] Bradley gave me some tapes of me hitting free throws in big games. I really thought back to those tapes and it really helped. My teammates had all the confidence in the world in me. I tried to get to the line by creating floaters. I was confident I could make them."

Booker finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Andre Young added 12 points. Booker did his damage while battling a virus that also affected teammate Jerai Grant on the trip out West.

"I was worried if he was going to make in through the first half at one point," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "Trevor said he was feeling weak so I just tried to nurse him. I think his competitive juices really started to kick in."

Gordon Hayward had season highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Shelvin Mack added 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Clemson trailed by 12 points before rallying to take a 68-67 lead on Young's 3-point shot with 1:32 to play. Matt Howard's tip-in then put Butler back in front at 69-68 with 56.7 seconds remaining.

Stitt was fouled and made both of his free throws with 3.3 seconds, left but the Bulldogs had two more chances to score.

Bulldog Willie Veasley deflected Howard's long inbounds pass to Mack, who took a 3-point shot that Booker blocked; the ball went out of bounds and it appeared that Clemson had the win. However, the referees conferred and placed five-tenths of a second back on the clock.

Mack tried to throw the ensuing inbounds pass across the court to Hayward on the right side but Booker leaped to deflect the ball as time expired.

"It was a pretty gutsy performance by Clemson at the free throw line with 3.3 seconds left and we have to give them credit in the great game they played," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "They definitely put pressure on us and they got us in the ending seconds."

Clemson shot 57.7 percent and made six of 13 shots from 3-point range in the second half.

Clemson Team Notes

• The Tigers moved to 6-1 on the season with Sunday’s victory over Butler.
It was just the second meeting ever between the two schools.

• It was Clemson’s first win against a ranked non-conference opponent in
12 years. The Tigers’ last win over a ranked non-conference foe was on Dec. 12, 1997 when Clemson defeated South Carolina by a score of 62-57.
The Tigers snapped a streak of five straight losses to ranked non-conference teams with the win over Butler.

• Clemson’s win was the third over a top-10 team (Butler came in ranked No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll) in Oliver Purnell’s tenure with the Tiger program (2003-present). The previous two were against Duke.

• For the eighth time under Oliver Purnell, the Tigers captured a victory inside the final 20 seconds of the game after either trailing or being tied. Clemson’s most recent victory inside the final seconds was in 2008, when Demontez Stitt knocked down free throws against Virginia Tech on Senior Day.

• Clemson overcame a 12-point second half deficit on Sunday (27-39) to win. The last time the Tigers overcame a second half deficit of double digits was Jan. 29, 2009 in Blacksburg, VA. Clemson trailed by as much as
15 that evening but won 86-82.

• Sunday’s win against Butler marked the sixth time within the last year that Clemson won a game in which it trailed by double digits. The Tigers won five games last season by overcoming double digit deficits.

• It was a tale of two halves offensively for Clemson. The Tigers shot just 35.7 percent in the first half and had only one point off Butler’s turnovers. In the second frame, the Tigers shot 57.7 percent and produced
13 points off the Bulldog turnovers.

• Clemson had a season-low 10 turnovers in the win over Butler. The Tigers’ previous low was 11 in the season opener against Presbyterian.

Clemson Individual Notes

• Clemson junior Demontez Stitt made a pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left in the game to put the Tigers ahead by one. It marked the second time in his career he made two free throws inside the final five seconds to give Clemson a one-point victory. He previously made two free throws on Mar. 9, 2008 to give Clemson a 70-69 win over Virginia Tech.
Ironically, his free throws Sunday also gave the Tigers a victory by the exact same score (70-69).

• Stitt followed an outstanding 16-point effort against Long Beach State with a season-high 19 points Sunday against Butler. He hit 7-15 shots, including a season-best three from long range. Stitt was 0-2 at the free throw line prior to his final two attempts as well.

• Trevor Booker scored 12 points Sunday, the seventh straight game to start the season the senior forward reached double figures in the scoring column. Booker also had a team-high eight rebounds and has led the Tiger team in rebounding in all seven games this season.

• Booker had two blocked shots in the game, including a swat with 0.5 seconds left on a three-point attempt that preserved the win. It was the second time in his career he blocked a shot in the final three seconds to seal a win. He blocked a shot at Charlotte last season to secure a 71-70 victory for the Tigers.

• Booker now has 211 blocked shots for his career, which moved him ahead of former Tiger standout Dale Davis for fourth on the school’s all-time list. Booker also ranks in the top 25 in ACC history for blocked shots.

• Andre Young came off the bench and matched a career-high with four makes from three-point range. He finished the game with 12 points and hit a three with 1:30 left that gave the Tigers a 68-67 lead.

• Tanner Smith was one of three players to average double figures for the tournament. Booker led the team with 14 points per game, while Stitt
(13.3) and Smith (13.0) averaged double figures. Smith made 15-18 free throws in the tournament for an 83.3 percent accuracy.

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