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Jones saves No. 5 Louisville vs. Clemson

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the second consecutive game, it was the second-half heroics of Chris Jones that saved Louisville.

The No. 5 Cardinals, playing their first-ever home game in the Atlantic Coast Conference, survived a 6-for-27 first-half shooting performance to grab a 58-52 victory over Clemson on Wednesday night at the KFC Yum Center.

And again, it was Jones who saved the day.

The senior guard from Memphis, Tenn., scored 20 of his 22 points in the final 20 minutes for the second straight game to lift the Cardinals. He also did that Sunday as the Cardinals rallied on the road at Wake Forest.

“I think our guys just have to understand the ACC and what it’s all about with the different styles,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “They just don’t understand.”

The Cardinals are 2-0 in ACC play headed to North Carolina on Saturday, but it was close calls against Wake Forest (8-8) and now Clemson (8-6).

Pitino, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Cardinals to the national title in 2013, said he tried to get the point across to his team that it had to play its’ A-game every league game when they trailed 22-18 at halftime.

“The message I tried to get to the team at halftime was, ‘Guys, the championship team understood styles and you don’t’,” Pitino said. “Just take tonight, Syracuse beat Georgia Tech 46-45 and I said that’s because Georgia Tech plays a certain style. I said Clemson has been No. 1 or No. 2 the last five years in the ACC, holding teams to under 60 points a game.

“I told them we had to be the better team. We don’t understand styles and we didn’t understand it was going to be a dogfight.”

But the Cardinals’ picked up on that in a hurry and it was Jones who was the team’s pitbull in the second half to spark the play. He hit all three of his 3-pointers and scored eight of the final 10 points of the game for the Cardinals.

Louisville, which opened the second-half with a 17-0 burst, only got two points of the bench and was outrebounded 40-37. But the Cardinals held Clemson to 16 of 52 from the field and turned the Tigers’ over 15 times.

“At the end of the day, when you play Rick’s teams you are going to have to make plays,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “There’s so much pressure and random trapping and stuff they do. It just forces your guys to make plays, we made some plays tonight but just not enough.”

Jones, who shot 6-for-17 from the field, also had five steals, four rebounds and two assists. Guard Terry Rozier had 15 points and six rebounds, while forward Wayne Blackshear added 11 points for the Cardinals.

Louisville All-America forward Montrezl Harrell finished with six points, on 2-of-5 shooting, and six rebounds after just playing five minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.

Clemson (8-6, 0-2) controlled the pace and led at halftime, but with Harrell back on the floor, the Cardinals started the second half with more energy.

Harrell scored all six of his points, including two slam dunks, in the 17-point run to open the second half. Jones and Blackshear both hit 3-pointers in the surge.

“The defense was fine (in the first half), the offense was killing us,” Pitino said. “It was unfortunate that Montrezl flopped — it was a good call — and picked up his second foul. But we have to do a better job on the offensive end.”

Louisville sank six of its first 10 shots of the second half and led 35-22 before Tigers guard Damarcus Harrison hit a 3-pointer with 13:05 left in the game.

Clemson fought back and narrowed the gap to four points on four occasions, but in the end it was too much Jones. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers after the Tigers cut it to 36-32, then made a jumper and added a layup after it was 44-40.

Jones added four free throws in the final seconds to seal it.

Forward Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson with 15 points.

The Tigers used an 8-2 run late in the first half and held Louisville to just one field

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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