MIAMI -- Backup forward Colby Brown hit a tip-in at the buzzer to lead Clemson to a 71-70 come-from-behind win over Coppin State last night in the first round of the Golden Panther Holiday Classic at Sunblazer Arena.
Clemson (7-2) advances to tonight's championship game where it will face Florida Atlantic, a 79-77 winner over International. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.
Coppin State (2-5) plays the host Golden Panthers in a 6 p.m. consolation game.
Clemson coach Cliff Ellis said he expected a tough game from Coppin State.
pTC "It was a hard-fought victory," Ellis said. "Coppin State battled hard, and we knew they were an experienced team. We were fortunate to get the tip-in at the end."
At first, it did not appear that Clemson would be in a position to make a comeback, as Coppin State used three-pointers to maintain a second-half lead.
Reggie Isaac hit four three-point goals to help build a 54-46 Eagles lead midway through the second half.
But Clemson kept its composure, and its defense came alive as the Tigers cut into the Eagle lead. Coppin State answered the challenge late in the game as a three-point basket by Isaac gave the Eagles a 68-66 lead with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining. Larry Johnson then added two free throws to give the Eagles a four-point lead.
Clemson's Eric Burks hit a bucket and completed a three-point play to close the Coppin lead to 70-69.
Brown almost cost the Tigers the game when he was whistled for an over-the-back violation after hitting his winning shot. But Larry McCollum missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Tigers the victory.
"It was probably the most exciting game that I have been in," Brown said. "I honestly didn't know I fouled him, but I was hoping he would miss on the line."
Coppin State held a 33-30 lead at the half, thanks to Larry Stewart's 12 points. The Eagles shot 43 percent from the field and benefited from 10 Tiger turnovers.
Clemson finished the game shooting 43 percent. Ricky Jones led the Tigers with 20 points. Dale Davis, Clemson's leading scorer at 20.3 points a game, added 16 despite fouling out late in the game, and led in rebounding with 12.
Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said, "We tried to clog him inside, but by doing that, we gave them some easy baskets."
Isaac led all scorers with 25 points and also set a tournament record with six three-point baskets. Larry Stewart added 16 for ,, the Eagles. Coppin State shot only 38 percent overall from the field.
Mitchell said his team's poor play at the end of the game cost it the victory.
"We just suffered breakdowns at the end," Mitchell said. "We just can't make those mistakes and expect to beat a team like Clemson. We played well for 39 minutes."
To Mitchell, close was not good enough.
"We don't believe in moral victories," he said. "We just look at it as a loss, and we're not very happy with a loss."