CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Hunter Tyson believed he was ready to make an impact. On Tuesday night, the Clemson sophomore was key to the Tigers' comeback win over Wake Forest.
Tyson had a career-high 21 points, including the go-ahead basket that put the Tigers up for good in a 71-68 win over the Demon Deacons.
Tyson had gotten stronger and faster from his first season as a reserve player, his confidence growing to where he can drive to the basket instead of just staying on the perimeter for outside shots.
“Really, just got going pretty early and my teammates were finding me," he said. “Coach put me in a lot of great positions for me to put the ball in the basket."
Tyson did that plenty for Clemson (10-8, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference). He made nine of 13 shots, including two 3-pointers. Tyson also had five rebounds as the Tigers won their seventh straight over Wake Forest - and got their fourth victory in the their past five ACC games after starting league play 0-3.
“Hunter's been playing well," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “He's starting to do more things. He's finishing plays around the basket now.”
None bigger than his inside layup that put Clemson up for good, 57-56, with 5:50 left. When Wake Forest (9-9, 2-6) got it to 60-59 after Brandon Childress' three foul shots, Hunter stepped up with a 3-pointer to extend Clemson's lead.
Not that there weren't plenty of throat-gulping moments as Clemson closed this out.
Clemson won despite its leading scorer this season, Aamir Simms, getting just seven points - and going just 7 of 18 from the foul line.
The Tigers made just one of their first 10 free throws before Curran Scott hit a pair and Clyde Trapp (just 2 of 7 from the line) made his last one with 11.4 seconds left for a 68-64 lead. Tyson hit a final foul shot with a second to go for the final margin - and to eclipse his previous high of 20 set this year against Detroit Mercy.
Clemson rallied from 10 points down - in part due to a five-point possession - to tie things at 51-all. On Tevin Mack's outside jumper, Olivier Sarr committed a foul during the shot that gave the ball right back to Clemson and Simms hit a 3-pointer as the Tigers closed from 47-39 behind to trailing by just three.
Simms then cut it to 47-46 with his last basket of the game. Wake Forest stretched it back to 56-51 before Clemson took control for good.
Wake Forest had a chance to tie trailing 67-64 with 11 seconds left, but Ismael Massoud missed a 3-pointer.
Andrien White had a season-high 22 points to lead Wake Forest. Sarr had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The Demon Deacons were just 2-of-11 shooting with 12 points the final nine minutes.
Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said his players need to focus on having a lead in a difficult venue like Clemson for 26 minutes and work on learning how to finish.
“We've got to hold on to that, especially on the road," he said.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons were in position to win two straight ACC games for the first time this season. But they settled for quick, long shots down the stretch. They were just 3 of 16 on 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes.
Clemson: The Tigers have found their stride after struggling through much of December, a month where they lost five of six games - the defeats all coming against Power Five opponents. Brownell said the team's confidence has taken root these past two weeks with comeback wins over North Carolina, then-No. 3 Duke and now Wake Forest.
Clemson has defeated the four North Carolina ACC schools (Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest) for the first time since 1995-96. They are 4-1 against the quartet after playing the Wolfpack twice. The Tigers go to Wake Forest on Feb. 1.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell shook his head with a smile when asked how he felt about already playing eight ACC games in the league's super-sized, 20-game schedule. “It's a lot," he said. “And then you've got 12 more. I don't like that number."
Wake Forest takes on reigning national champs Virginia at home on Sunday.
Clemson plays at No. 6 Louisville on Saturday.
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