ATLANTA — Will Solomon didn't hit many shots Thursday night. But when it
mattered most, he did hit the most important one.
Solomon's 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:45 left in the game turned a
one-point deficit into a 64-62 lead, helping Clemson to a 66-64 victory in
the play-in game of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament at the Georgia
Dome in Atlanta.
The victory means the Tigers (12-18) advance to meet top-seeded North
Carolina today at noon.
Solomon, who has struggled offensively for the past month, scored 13 points
on 4-of-15 shooting Thursday. But the game-winner was vintage Solomon.
The play unfolded when Tomas Nagys came up with a steal on the defensive end,
which immediately triggered Clemson's running game. Dustin Braddick got the
ball in transition near the top of the key and quickly found Solomon in the
The 6-foot-1 junior pump-faked one defender out of position, then released
the shot before a second Seminole could recover. The shot connected, and
Clemson's bench erupted.
"I just shot it and it went in," Solomon said. "I've got to credit my
teammates...they all ran the floor. We beat (Florida State) back — me, Tony
(Stockman) and Dustin — and they had to split up to guard us. Two went to
Tony and one went with Dustin, and that left me wide open.
"Dustin made a great pass, and I just knocked it down."
Clemson wasn't out of the woods just yet.
After the Seminoles misfired on an attempt to tie the game, Stockman took a
wild runner with the shot clock running down that hit the side of the
backboard, giving FSU possession with 27 seconds left.
But Florida State was unable to convert on the possession, eventually losing
the ball out of bounds with 12 seconds to go. Clemson inbounded the ball to
Ed Scott, who was promptly fouled. The sophomore point guard hit both ends of
the bonus to put Clemson on top 66-62 with 10 seconds left.
Monte Cummings' layup at the buzzer provided the final margin.
"I'm very proud of these guys," Clemson coach Larry Shyatt said. "I hate
myself if I say that after we win, but I've said that after many losses this
year. But I am proud of them because their effort has probably been
consistent, and when you have three freshman, four sophomores and Will
Solomon, you learn to fight in this league."
Clemson did plenty of fighting Thursday.
The Tigers fought off a horrible first half shooting percentage; fought back
from a three-point halftime deficit; fought Florida State's attempt to keep
the game at a slow tempo in the second half; and finally fought itself,
squandering a 57-49 lead with 6:43 to go, only to rally on Solomon's
Clemson also fought hard on the boards, out-rebounding Florida State 41-30
and limiting the Seminoles to just eight offensive rebounds.
But the biggest difference was the tempo.
After a slow, plodding first half, Clemson used its defense and rebounding to
trigger a running game that allowed Scott and Braddick to excel in the open
Scott, who finished with 12 points, five assists and just two turnovers in 37
minutes, forced the issue at every opportunity and on three occasions went
the length of the floor for easy layups. Braddick finished with eight points,
including two transition layups in the second half.
"I repeated to the players at halftime that 'guys, we have to continue to try
and push it,' but we can't do that unless we get stops and boards," Shyatt
said. "That's the best I've seen Ed Scott go coast-to-coast and make some
"I would say quite honestly we were very inefficient scoring in the halfcourt
again. But we were pretty good in the open court."
When the Tigers were forced to play halfcourt, Ray Henderson turned in one of
his best performances of the season. The 6-9 sophomore scored a team-high 15
points and pulled down eight rebounds, while at the same time limiting FSU's
Nigel Dixon (6-10, 350) to three points and five boards.
Clemson trailed just 30-27 at the half despite a 9-for-30 (30 percent) effort
from the floor.
The Tigers started well, scoring 13 consecutive points after falling behind
4-0 early. Henderson and Chris Hobbs each scored four points during the run.
But Clemson missed a chance to further distance itself from FSU by scoring
just three points over a stretch of 5:04 that saw the Seminoles pull within
Florida State outscored Clemson 17-12 over the final 9:57 of the half thanks
in large part to Michael Joiner, who scored seven points during the stretch
and assisted on one other basket.
Before Thursday's victory, Clemson had been 0-27 as the lower-seeded team in
its ACC Tournament history...Florida State shot 52 percent (13-of-25) in the
first half, but just 36 percent (11-of-30) in the second...Antwuan Dixon kept
the Seminoles in the game in the second half, when he scored 16 of his
game-high 23 points.
Clifton 1-5 0-0 2, Hobbs 2-2 2-4 6, Henderson 6-8 3-3 15, Solomon
4-15 2-2 13, Scott 5-8 2-2 12, Stockman 1-8 0-0 3, McKnight 1-3
0-0 3, Braddick 4-4 0-0 8, Nagys 2-8 0-1 4, Bains 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 26-61 9-12 66.
FLORIDA ST. (9-21)
Joiner 5-12 0-0 11, A. Dixon 8-11 5-5 23, N. Dixon 1-5 2-4 4,
Crawford 4-9 0-0 11, Arrington 2-7 2-2 6, Lowery 0-1 0-0 0,
Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Haywood 1-2 0-0 2, Cummings 3-5 1-5 7, Anderson
0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 10-16 64.
Halftime-Florida St. 30, Clemson 27. 3-Point goals-Clemson 5-14
(Clifton 0-1, Solomon 3-7, Scott 0-1, Stockman 1-3, McKnight
1-2), Florida St. 6-19 (Joiner 1-3, A. Dixon 2-5, Crawford 3-7,
Arrington 0-2, Lowery 0-1, Wilson 0-1). Fouled out-None.
Rebounds-Clemson 41 (Henderson 8), Florida St. 30 (Joiner 6).
Assists-Clemson 16 (Scott 5), Florida St. 14 (Cummings 4). Total
fouls-Clemson 20, Florida St. 16.
Dan Scott is the host of SportsTalk (10AM-Noon) on 104.9 FM in Upstate SC and
Managing Editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger