CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)—Andre Young doesn’t want to think about Clemson’s next few practices.
He knows, though, that without his defense at the end of Tuesday night’s game, those workouts could have been even worse for the Tigers.
Young stole the ball in the final minute, shuffled it off to Demontez Stitt, who was fouled and made both free throws and No. 21 Clemson held on against hard-charging South Carolina State, 70-67.
Young hopes the team takes in what almost happened and works to keep it from recurring.
“I think this gives us some goals we can set, playing 40 minutes, maintaining focus,” Young said. “You build up bad habits in the ACC, it gets you in the loss column.”
That’s what Clemson (12-2) hopes to avoid when league play begins Sunday night, at No. 7 Duke.
Young expects coach Oliver Purnell will turn up the heat in practice to make sure the lapses against South Carolina State (6-4) won’t show up again.
“It’s probably going to be pretty rough,” Young said. “We’ve got to come out with a mentality that we’ve got to get better. If we look at it that way, maybe it won’t be as bad.”
Don’t count on it.
The Tigers nearly matched their season high with 16 turnovers, missed both 1-and-1 opportunities in the last minute with a chance to ice the game and were outrebounded 30-27.
“We don’t take worry from it, we just take heed to it,” said Stitt, who along with Noel Johnson led Clemson with 13 points. “We’re a better team than what we showed tonight.”
The Tigers certainly had been. They had won their past five games by an average of more than 23 points, dispatching opponents with face-fronting defense, solid shooting and Trevor Booker controlling the middle.
This time, South Carolina State pushed Booker out from his comfort zone and pushed the pace on its Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
“We were sleeping most of the game probably until the last minute when we realized we might get beat,” Booker said. “We tried to pick it up, but it was almost too late.”
The Bulldogs had Clemson on its heels most of the second half, slicing a 12-point lead to 62-60. Then after the Tigers had rebuilt it to 67-60, rallying again to pull within a point.
“I don’t know if we could’ve played better than we did tonight,” said Bulldogs coach Tim Carter, whose team lost at Miami and Iowa earlier this month by double digits.
Tyvon Williams’ driving basket with 27.1 seconds left brought South Carolina State to 68-67.
The Bulldogs had a chance to move in front its next trip down court when Young stole the ball from Khalif Toombs and fed it to Stitt, who was fouled and made both.
South Carolina State got two opportunities to tie down the stretch.
Booker broke up the first try when he intercepted Darnell Porter’s inbounds pass and was sent to the foul line with 8 seconds left. Booker, 4 of 10 from the line, missed both.
Jason Flagler put up a desperation shot from the left side of the 3-point line with three Tigers in his face as time expired.
Darnell Porter led South Carolina State with 19 points.
Purnell took the blame for Clemson’s performance saying he hadn’t prepared the players enough.
“Coming into this game, I was happy,” Purnell said. “In college basketball, upsets happen all the time. We avoided one tonight. Hopefully, we’ll be energized to go on the road and play in the ACC.”
The Tigers moved in front 44-32 with 19:14 left on Stitt’s 3-pointer. But the Bulldogs pushed the pace and made it 62-60 on Arsenio Williams’ basket with 7:04 remaining.
David Potter appeared to rescue Clemson with a 3 and a layup that made it 67-60. Again, South Carolina State rallied.
Toombs hit a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left that cut Clemson’s lead to three points. Young missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Williams scored his driving basket.
Booker finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for Clemson.
Flagler had 16 points and Williams added 12 for South Carolina State, which fell to 1-9 all-time against Clemson.
Carter said the effort will help his team during the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule.
“They were supposed to beat us. I was thinking before the game that if we can come out of this under 30 then it is a good night,” Carter said. “I am really proud of our execution tonight.”