Marcquise Reed carried Clemson in the first half and then Elijah Thomas finished it off in the second half as the Tigers rallied to down Saint Peters, 65-60, Tuesday at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
Reed scored 21 points to lead Clemson, who struggled to get past the pesky Peacocks. The Tigers and Saint Peters went back and forth for much of the night as the game saw the lead change hands 13 times. Ten times it was tied.
“It was obviously a hard-fought win,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “Give Saint Peters a lot of credit. We knew we had to guard the three tonight and we did not do it.”
Saint Peter made 10-of-21 shots from behind the arc.
Though the Tigers got the win. They could have a huge loss on its roster. They are in jeopardy of being without their leading scorer for a significant amount of time. Late in the game, Reed, while driving for a basket, went down with a left knee injury and did not return to the game.
The senior will have an MRI Wednesday morning to check the severity of the knee injury. The training staff was examining him for an ACL tear when he was being examined on the bench.
“I’m concerned,” Brownell said. “He will have the test in the morning and we will hope for the best.”
Thomas, who did not start the game due to disciplinary reasons and did not get into the game until the 7:42 mark of the first half, finished the night with 17 points and 12 rebounds. The senior center made two key baskets, one a three-point play, and then blocked a shot on the defensive side as the big-man took over down the stretch.
“He made a lot of big plays for us tonight,” point guard Shelton Mitchell said.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Tigers and improved their record to 6-2. The Peacocks fell to 2-6.
Clemson did not shoot the ball well. The Tigers made just 42 percent of their shots and were just 2-of-14 (14 percent) from three-point range. Mitchell made both of the Tigers’ three pointers.
“They made ten threes. It is hard to win when there is that much of a disparity in three-pointers,” Brownell said. “But we played tough and we fought. and we found a way to win. Give Saint Peters credit, but we made enough big plays down the stretch. I’m proud of the way our guys fought.”
The game was tied at 28 at halftime as Clemson made just 1-of-6 three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes.
With Clemson clinging to a one-point lead, Clyde Trapp drove the lane and banked a floater off the glass to extend the lead to 61-58 with 39 seconds to play. Thomas then rebound the Peacocks’ next shot and made two foul shots with 22 seconds to play for a five-point lead.
“I tried to make a play for my teammates and I’m happy it went in,” Trapp said.
Mitchell made two free throws with 12 seconds to play to seal the five-point victory. He finished the game with 15 points. The Tigers were 23-of-30 from the foul line.
“We knew it was going to be a hard game,” Brownell said. “I told the guys that if we are going to win this game, we are going to win it at the foul line, and that is what we did.”
The Tigers will play No. 22 Mississippi State on Saturday in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, N.J. The game is scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN 2.