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No. 8 Miami struggles down the stretch to lose to Clemson 76-65, its second straight loss following an eight-game winning streak


GREENVILLE, South Carolina — Miami coach Jim Larranaga wasn't sure what he was seeing down the stretch against Clemson.

His typically poised, polished and eighth-ranked Hurricanes came apart at the seams, turning a six-point lead with 7 minutes left into a 76-65 loss to the Tigers on Saturday.

For much of the game, Larranaga thought his players were in prime position to bounce back from their Atlantic Coast Conference loss at Virginia last Tuesday. Instead, Miami has a losing streak and a struggling leader in point guard Angel Rodriguez.

"We collapsed in the last 5" minutes, Larranaga said. "We're going to need to do a heck of a lot better job."

Particularly Rodriguez, the senior who came in averaging nearly 12 points a game. He was 1 of 7 from the field, continuing a recent downward trend Larranaga says needs to change.

Rodriguez was 2 of 8 from the field against Florida State two games ago and 1 of 9 against Syracuse the game before that. Larranaga wasn't sure what the problem was, only that it had to be fixed if Miami (13-3, 2-2) hopes to challenge for a league title

"He'd been playing like that and it's a real concern of mine," the coach said. "My staff and I will talk about that as to how we can help him."

Jaron Blossomgame scored 25 points and the Tigers (12-6, 5-1) used a 25-8 run over the last 7 minutes to beat three straight ranked teams for the first time in program history, a run that began against No. 21 Louisville last Sunday and continued with No. 9 Duke on Wednesday. Next up is No. 13 Virginia on Tuesday night.

"The most important thing about this winning streak is it's given guys confidence that we can play with the top teams in the country," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "And if we play to the best of our abilities we can win."

That was in doubt last month when Clemson went 3-4, including losses to Southeastern Conference opponents Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia.

Things changed, Blossomgame said, when the Tigers played strong in losing 80-69 at No. 6 North Carolina three weeks ago.

"We had a chance to win. Ever since then we felt really confident," he said.

That's obvious with five straight ACC wins, which Clemson last accomplished in 1997.

PHOTO: Clemson head coach Brad Brownell walks the bench line during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Miami Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell walks the bench line during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Miami Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

"That's taken this team to where it is right now," Blossomgame said. "The sky's the limit for this team."

The Tigers looked like their tank may have run out as Miami opened a 57-51 lead with about 7 minutes left. That's when Clemson went on a 25-8 run to end the game and continue its stunning ACC start.

"I thought it was a terrific game for 35 minutes and then we came unglued," Larranaga said.

Davon Reed led Miami with 17 points.

Jordan Roper scored 18 points for the Tigers, who hadn't beaten three ranked teams in a season since 1998.

Miami had a six-point lead in the second half, the last time on Tonye Jekiri's basket with 7:48 to play. That's when the Tigers took control. Blossomgame scored eight straight points to draw Clemson within a point before Donte Grantham hit the go-ahead basket.

Roper followed with a jumper and a 3-pointer to open a 66-60 lead for the Tigers.


Miami: The Hurricanes have taken four of the past five games with Clemson including a 56-48 victory in Miami last season. ... The Hurricanes average five 3-pointers a game and they had that many in first half.

Clemson: When the Tigers defeated Duke last time out, it was their seventh career win over a defending NCAA tournament champion. The previous time that occurred was in 2010 when Clemson topped North Carolina 83-64.


Clemson had its second straight strong performance from the free throw line. The Tigers, who made 12 of 13 free throws to beat Duke, hit all 15 of their attempts against Miami. Brownell did not want to talk about it too much, not wishing to jeopardize whatever's working. "Let's just say we're shooting well from" the line, he said with a smile.


Miami travels to Boston College on Wednesday.

Clemson plays at No. 13 Virginia on Tuesday.

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