No. 24 Iowa holds off late Clemson surge to advance in Emerald Coast Classic

Dargan Southard
Des Moines Register

Iowa’s first day at the Emerald Coast Classic turned into a survival effort.

The No. 24 Hawkeye men's basketball team did so with little room to spare.

Despite owning a double-digit advantage for much of the second half, Iowa survived Clemson’s late surge for a 74-71 win Friday evening on the campus of Northwest Florida State in Niceville, Florida. The Hawkeyes (5-0) advanced to Saturday’s title game against TCU

Saturday's game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network.

“Didn’t go the way we exactly planned down the stretch, but that’s why we play the game," Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery said. "We live for those competitive, high-intensity moments.”

Things appeared under control for Iowa — owning a 60-46 advantage with eight minutes left — until Clemson (4-2) finally broke through its offensive futility for one final push. The Tigers responded with a 10-0 run to climb back, then tied the game, 64-64, with 2:54 remaining.

The orange-clad contingency was rocking. In its first game this season as a ranked squad, would Iowa let this game slip away in the final moments?

Not this time. Tony Perkins’ tough driving layup gave the Hawkeyes a 66-64 advantage, and after Clemson split two free throws to pull within one, Iowa caught a break in a moment of panic. Perkins’ jumper with the shot clock running down was an air ball, but it landed right in Filip Rebrača’s hands for a fortunate putback.

Six straight Perkins free throws offset two desperation treys from Clemson in the final 30 seconds. Iowa held the Tigers to a dismal 8-for-26 from deep, yet four of those makes arrived in the final six minutes.

Otherwise, it was a quality defensive day for the Hawkeyes. A hefty rebounding edge (46-32) and strong work early helped hold off Clemson down the stretch.

McCaffery led the offensive effort with 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting, despite missing five of his six 3-pointers. It was an off-day scoring for Kris Murray — 10 points on 4-for-17 shooting, including 0-for-5 from deep — but his 12 rebounds left an impact. Nine of Perkins’ 11 points came in the game’s final four minutes.

Iowa will need cleaner efforts over 40 minutes, but the Hawkeyes at least kept Clemson’s comeback vibes from fully materializing.

“(The tournament) gives us an opportunity to find out about yourself. Can you play in a close game? Can you play in a tight game?" Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "They made some big shots down the stretch. So did we. … Overall, just very pleased with the fact that we were able to maintain our composure and get the win.”

Dargan Southard is a sports trending reporter and covers Iowa athletics for the Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.