CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Brad Brownell had seen enough bad plays from Nick Honor and challenged the Fordham transfer to play the way he's seen in practice.
Honor responded in a big way as the Tigers rallied in the second half to defeat No. 18 Florida State 77-67 on Tuesday night.
Honor scored all of his 13 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 7:01 to play that gave Clemson the lead for good.
“He did exactly what you want a player do when you challenge him,” Brownell said.
Honor, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, was eager to make his mark. He sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules and watched as Clemson defeated top-10 opponents in Duke, Louisville and the Seminoles, and ended an 0-for-59 mark at North Carolina.
Honor is happy he played a big role in this one.
“It's a great feeling. Coach keeps us hungry and we don't worry about the rankings,” he said.
Clyde Trapp led Clemson with 15 points and Al-Amir Dawes had 11.
The Tigers (7-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) were down 36-29 when Balsa Korprivica had a layup to start the second half. That's when things began to turn for Clemson, as Al-Amir Dawes hit a 3-pointer and Trapp scored three points, tightening the game.
The teams traded the lead 13 times over the next 10 minutes, and Korprivica tied things at 54-all.
Honor, broke the tie and put Clemson ahead for good with a 3-pointer with 7:01 to play. After John Newman III hit a basket, Honor stole the ball in the backcourt, was fouled and hit both foul shots as Clemson moved ahead 60-54.
Honor added a three-point play a minute later, and when Dawes stroked a 3, the Tigers were up 66-57.
Florida State (5-2, 1-1) got within 71-65 on Anthony Polite's 3-pointer with 1:45 to go. But the Seminoles could not catch Clemson and lost for the second time in three games.
Dawes added 11 points for Clemson, and Aamir Simms, the team's top scorer this season, finished with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Scottie Barnes led Florida State with 14 points.
The Seminoles opened sluggishly, starting 0 of 5 from the field with six turnovers in less than five minutes.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton has talked about overcoming slow starts often this season.
“It's not that we're not concerned about our slow starts, that's just who we are,” he said. “We've got to get better.”
The Tigers couldn't take advantage, though, and the Seminoles soon found their shooting touch as they broke away from a 21-all tie and closed the half with 13-8 run.
Wyatt Wilkes, who came in averaging less than four points a game, hit a pair of 3-pointers in the half to keep Clemson at arms length.
Florida State, though, had difficulty against Clemson's scoring defense, which leads the ACC and is third nationally at fewer than 54 points a game. The Seminoles had 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, entering the game averaging 13 miscues per game.
THE BIG PICTURE
Florida State: The Seminoles couldn't take advantage of Clemson's cold shooting early and that eventually cost them when the Tigers continued playing solid defense and made shots in the second half for the comeback victory.
Clemson: The host Tigers defeated a ranked Florida State team for the second straight time, topping then sixth-ranked Seminoles 70-69 on Al-Amir Dawes court-length, game-winning drive.
PLAYING LIKE A DOG
Aamir Simms said his shorter teammate in Nick Honor — Simms, at 6-8, is 10 inches taller than Honor — said his size doesn't keep him from throwing himself up against much bigger defenders and making plays. “To be that small, you've got to bring that dog mentality,” Simms said. “When Nick is going, it's hard to stop us.”
WORK TO DO
Despite Florida State's early time in the Top 25, Hamilton saw plenty of areas for improvement if the defending ACC champions hoped to make another run at the title. “I've said all along we're a team that's a work in progress,” he said. “We have some adjustments we have to make, mentally and emotionally, but I think we're a team that has potential to be a really good basketball team.”
Florida State is scheduled to play No. 20 Duke at home on Saturday night.
Clemson heads to Miami on Saturday.
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