By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
Clemson’s defense has been historically good at times under Brad Brownell. It comes as no surprise when the Tigers allow an opponent to shoot a low percentage or score a low number of points.
Against Delaware State at home on Wednesday night, however, the Clemson defense was extra good, and it led to an emphatic 58-37 victory that gave the Tigers back-to-back 20-plus point victories to start the season.
The Tigers were led in scoring by Damarcus Harrison, who poured in 15 points on a mere eight shot attempts in an efficient performance. After overhauling his jump shot over the summer with the help of the coaching staff, Harrison has connected on four of nine three-point attempts (.444) to start the season.
“I know what I’m capable of,” Harrison said. “I know I have to bring it every day, so I have to come out and play hard.”
K.J. McDaniels was the other Tiger in double figures, adding 11 points to go along with five rebounds and a team-high five blocks. Jaron Blossomgame had eight points and eight rebounds as well.
Beating the Hornets was primarily a product of defense. No player on Delaware State’s roster scored in double figures, and only two out of the 14 players that saw action made multiple field goals.
The Tigers raced out to a double-digit lead midway through the first half and never looked back. They took a 32-23 advantage into the locker room on the back of ten points from Harrison and seven apiece from McDaniels and Jordan Roper.
After a 3:40 scoring drought both ways to start the second half, the Hornets cut the Clemson lead to seven points at 32-25. It was then the Tigers ratcheted up the defensive intensity.
They used a 14-4 spurt to pull away from Delaware State. During the stretch—which lasted more than eight minutes—the Hornets only made one field goal. Then, from the 8:24 mark until there were 37 seconds left in the game, Clemson held its adversary without a field goal again. In all, the Hornets missed 20 of their 24 field goal attempts after halftime.
“They were really locked in defensively,” Brownell said of his team. “They were getting stops. We didn’t give many easy looks.”
Overall, Clemson’s effort went beyond simply not allowing Delaware State to make shots. The Hornets scored only six points in the paint, and the Tigers blocked seven shots as a team. The Hornets only went 1-for-13 (.077) from three-point range.
Furthermore, Clemson outrebounded its opponent by 15 (40-25) and took advantage of opportunities in transition, holding the edge 11-0 in fast break points. The Tigers had 14 assists on 19 made baskets and only turned the ball over seven times.
For long-time Clemson fans, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the game was the Tigers making 15-of-19 (.789) from the free throw line. All in all, in many regards, it was an offensive performance that was crisper than people might have seen this time a year ago.
“We rehearse it over and over in practice,” McDaniels said of the offense. “It turns over into the game, and it’s kind of like practice when we’re out there.”
The Tigers have a stiff test coming up Sunday, as they will take the Littlejohn Coliseum court at 5 p.m. against archrival South Carolina.