By Staff Report.
By Will Vandervort
Former Clemson coach Cliff Ellis noticed two things about this year’s Clemson Tigers Friday night in Clemson.
First of all, he said his Coastal Carolina team was intimidated by Clemson’s athleticism and length. Secondly, he said they are a team that plays with a lot of chemistry.
The Tigers displayed both early and often in cruising to a 69-40 victory over Coastal Carolina at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“They beat us in pretty much every facet of the game,” said Ellis, who saw his two-game winning streak against the Tigers snapped. “I’m very impressed with Clemson. They are long and their length bothered us. I thought their shot blocking really bothered us.
“Two things stood out that I thought were really intimidating. Number one, their shot blocking intimidated us and number two, they were very superior on the boards.”
Clemson, who leads the ACC with eight blocks a game, recorded eight more against the Chanticleers, while outrebounding them, 46-27, including a 14-8 advantage on the offensive glass.
“That was a good performance by our team,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “We were very locked in defensively to the scouting and I thought we made it hard on Coastal most of the night. If we don’t play poorly at the end of the first half, I thought we were going to put it away at the end of the half.
“To their credit they kept fighting and made a couple of plays, but we found our rhythm in the second half and, again, I thought our defense was outstanding tonight.”
Clemson’s defense held the Chanticleers to 28.3 percent shooting. Coastal failed to score on its first 11 possessions of the night as the Tigers built a 13-0 lead.
Coastal (2-5) did not score until the nine and a half minutes into the game on a Josh Cameron Jumper.
“That was the plan,” said Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels who scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. “We feed off of what happened last year and we took that as a learning experience.
“We knew this team would come in here and play as hard as they could so we had to go out there and lay it down on them.”
Before pregame warm ups, Brownell put in the tape of last year’s 23-point loss at Coastal Carolina, when the Chanticleers outhustled and outplayed the Tigers all night, as a reminder of what they can expect from Coastal and what can happen if they don’t take them serious enough.
“I think players get past things quickly so it was more just to remind them of how focused Coastal would be and how hard they will play,” Brownell said. “They are a very physical team and they are strong. They really pursue balls around the basket. They packet it in defensively so it is hard to get to the basket.
“It was just to let our guys know more than anything that ‘you are going to have to be ready for a physical battle.’”
And Clemson (6-1) won that battle time-and-time, again. After getting out to a 20-point lead thanks to a McDaniel three-pointer with 2:17 to play in the opening half, the Chanticleers battled back to pull within 12, 33-21, thanks to an 8-0 run to close the half.
Coastal pulled with 10 points with 17:40 to play in the game after Warren Gillis drove inside for a layup. But McDaniels took over the game with a jumper, a steal and an assist to quickly up the lead back to 14 points.
McDaniels’ teammates followed his lead as the Tigers went on a 14-2 run to put the game away. McDaniels capped the run with his second three-pointer of the night, this time it gave them a 49-27 lead with 11 minutes to go.
“McDaniels, good gosh! We played them the last two years and this guy is turning into a high-level player. His game has really picked up.”
McDaniels wasn’t the only one doing all the scoring. Devin Coleman, who played a season-high 28 minutes in place of the injured Jordan Roper, scored 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting, including a 4-for-4 effort in the second half.
Roper missed the game due to a concussion he suffered in the Charleston Classic last week.
“The guys seem to be in it,” Ellis said when comparing this year’s squad to the one his team beat last year. “They seem to be pulling in the same direction. The chemistry seems to be good.”
Clemson shot 43.4 percent from the floor and scored 22 points off 16 Coastal Carolina turnovers. The Tigers also had 13 second chance points thanks to their 14 offensive rebounds.
“We had to come out with the right mentality and we did,” McDaniels said. “I feel like we did that tonight, from me to the whole bench.”
Clemson will take the rest of the weekend off before hosting South Carolina State on Tuesday, 7 p.m., at Littlejohn.