When Peyton Aldridge made a layup to pull his Davidson team within 12 points with 8:48 to play on Thursday, Brad Brownell could tell his Clemson team was tired. So he called a much-needed timeout.
The Tigers played Davidson with just eight players due to an injury to starting guard Shelton Mitchell, the suspension of shooting guard Ty Hudson and Elijah Thomas’ inability to play due to transfer rules.
“There were a couple of guys, when we were coming over for timeouts, I could tell they were tired. I called a timeout that one time because those guys were exhausted,” Brownell said on The Clemson Sports Network after the game.
The timeout worked. It gave his team just enough juice to finish off Davidson for an impressive 95-78 victory in the first-round of the Tire Pro Invitational in Orlando, Florida. Clemson will play the Xavier-Missouri winner in the second round.
As for right now, the Tigers (2-0) are going to enjoy a win over a Davidson team that concerned Brownell coming in. Especially considering the fact he has just eight players to play with.
“You kind of get into one of those difficult places in a game sometimes, especially with us being thin on the bench. We really wanted to go faster at times, but we felt we just did not have enough in our tank,” the Clemson coach said. “That is something we are just battling through right now, but I thought our guys, offensively, did a good job once we woke up a little bit.”
Clemson started the game slow as the Wildcats’ first six shots were all three-pointers. Davidson made five of their first seven attempts from behind the arc. But after that, the Tigers extended their defense, turned up the pressure and did an excellent job guarding the passing lanes.
The Wildcats (1-1) closed the first half making just one of their final 16 three-pointers and made just five of their final 33 attempts from downtown overall.
“They made four threes really early and had us down 12-8, but we really had a stretch there where we guarded them exceptionally well. We knocked a lot of balls loose. Our activity level was really good,” Brownell said. “We had deflections that led to fast breaks and we finished on the breaks, and that helped us build a lead.
“We knew they were going to shoot some threes. I did not think they were going to shoot 40, though.”
Clemson gained control of the game midway through the first half when its defensive pressure got to the Wildcats. Davidson turned the ball over 13 times in the opening 20 minutes, including six times during a stretch in which it went nine straight possessions without any points.
The Tigers used the turnovers for easy transition baskets to go on an 18-6 run in the final 9:41 of the first half. Clemson finished the game with a 21-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys played,” Brownell said.
Brownell was especially proud of Avry Holmes. Despite having to play 37 minutes due to Mitchell’s injury and Hudson’s suspensions, the senor led the Tigers with 22 points, three assists and six rebounds. He also had two steals on the defensive end of the court.
“He was really good tonight. He made a couple of drives off ball screens and got fouled. He made a couple of tough layups,” Brownell said. “We have really worked hard on layup shooting versus contact and things of that nature. Our skill work has paid off.
“He has made a couple of tough ones in the first two games. He is a senior. It is time for him to play at this level. He has it in him. We are just excited to see that thus far in this season.”
Clemson also got 17 points and six rebounds from Jaron Blossomgame, while Gabe DeVoe tallied 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Donte Grantham had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Sidy Djitte added 12 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
“Avry was fantastic today. Jaron was just really solid. Donte was good and Sidy was rugged and tough. We are just a better team with him out on the court,” Brownell said. “I thought Gabe was really good again. When he makes shots, it really helps us open some things up.
“We have to improve on a few things, but this is a good win against a very good offensive team in Davidson.”
–Photo Credit: Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports