CLEMSON, S.C. -- Funny how something as basic as a few free throws can seemingly make your troubles disappear.
Just ask Harold Jamison.
In Clemson's 71-46 rout of Wake Forest on Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum, the junior found out that rediscovering something so fundamental can make a world of difference for a struggling team.
"That's something I've worked on real hard lately because free-throw shooting has hurt us," said Jamison, who went 6-for-9 from the line, scoring 14 points to go with eight rebounds. "Today was a must-win. We took care of the little things like making our free throws, and now maybe a little bit of the pressure is off."
But facing the pressure of a fifth-straight defeat in Atlantic Coast Conference play, not to mention the dashing of hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid, certainly didn't inspire Clemson early. The Tigers' sloppy offensive performance staked Wake Forest to a 29-28 halftime lead.
Clemson's recent free-throw shooting woes continued with a 6-for-13 first-half showing, while the Demon Deacons shot 80 percent from the line and 50 percent from 3-point range.
But Clemson (13-10, 4-7 ACC) was reborn in the second half, shooting 75 percent from the line (12-for-16) while turning it on defensively.
"I think Clemson has the ability to play at the highest level of college basketball this year, and they raised their game to that level today after several games of not playing well," said Wake Forest coach Dave Odom, whose Demon Deacons (12-9, 4-6) shot 18.2 percent from the field and made 14 of their 22 turnovers in the second half.
During a 12-minute span, Clemson outscored Wake Forest 30-5 and posted the largest victory margin (25) in school history in a game it trailed at halftime.
"The defense has truly been pretty good all year, and it was certainly excellent today," said Clemson coach Rick Barnes, now 2-7 lifetime against the Deacons. "But you know in this league how closely each team is matched right now, and the difference comes at the free-throw line. When you make free throws, it takes pressure off a lot of things."
Disgusted with the team's abysmal foul shooting, Barnes took action. An 82-80 overtime loss to N.C. State last Saturday (the Tigers went 14 of 28 from the line) and a 70-52 loss at Georgia Tech last Wednesday (7-for-13, 54 percent from the line) was enough.
He invited a group of Clemson students to Friday's practice and urged them to razz his players as they practiced their free throws.
"The students made things interesting," said Tony Christie, who went 2-for-2 from the line and finished with 14 points. "It seems like when a couple of guys make free throws, everyone starts making them and confidence goes up."
Now, the Tigers hope that confidence continues. With six games to go -- five ACC contests (three on the road) -- to close out the regular season, senior Greg Buckner knows this is no time to be overconfident.
"We're still in a hole and we've got to keep trying to fight our way out one game at a time," Buckner said. "We can't get too happy with ourselves. One good game is not good enough for me."