Iowa (5-0) will face TCU - a 59-48 winner over California in the second semifinal - in the title game Saturday. Clemson (4-2) will play Cal.
''It didn't go the way exactly we planned down the stretch,'' McCaffery said, but he added, ''We live for those competitive, high intensity games.''
Tony Perkins, whose playing time was limited due to early foul trouble, scored eight of his 11 points during the final two minutes, making a layup and six of six free throws to help squelch a furious comeback attempt by the Tigers.
''That's kind of who he is,'' said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, Patrick's father. ''He's a gamer. You trust him in those situations.''
The Hawkeyes had a 14-point lead with just under eight minutes to play, but Clemson tied it at 62 on a 3-pointer by Breven Galloway that capped a 16-2 run.
Chase Hunter hit a 3-pointer for Clemson to cut it to 72-71 with 4.1 second left. Perkins iced it with two free throws with 1.5 seconds to go.
One of two sons of coach Fran McCaffery on the Hawkeyes' roster, Patrick McCaffery hit seven of 14 shots from the field. Kris Murray was the only other double-figure scorer for Iowa with 10.
Hunter led Clemson with 21 points and Hunter Tyson had 13.
Coach McCaffery welcomed the challenge that Clemson presented.
''That's what these tournaments are for, to play really good teams like Clemson, very physical, deep, quick,'' he said. ''It gives you and opportunity - us and them - to find something out about yourself.''
Iowa: The victory, the first this season against a Power 5 team, kept Iowa undefeated and could help secure its tenuous position in the AP Top 25, but the Hawkeyes probably need to win the tournament title to stay there. They were unranked in the preseason poll, but last week grabbed the 25th slot as Michigan, Dayton and TCU, their opponent in the title game, dropped out after suffering a one-point loss to Northwestern State of Louisiana.
Clemson. The loss was the second in as many games against Power 5 teams this season for Clemson and the first to a ranked team. The Tigers also fell to in-state rival South Carolina 60-58 on Nov. 11.
Besides Iowa brothers Conner and Patrick McCaffery, Clemson, fielded two sets of brothers, Chase and Dillon Hunter, and Jack and Daniel Nauseef. Together they represent 11% of the 28 sets of brothers playing on the same team nationally. Iowa also had two sets of brothers last season, but Kris Murray's twin, Keegan, opted to enter the NBA draft and now plays for the Sacramento Kings.
This was only the fourth meeting between the two teams. Iowa held a 2-1 edge going into Friday's game, but Clemson won their last encounter in 2011 as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Before that Iowa won in 1962 and 1981.
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