Though Clemson moved to 4-0 all-time with its 74-66 win over Radford Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum, it was not just another win over a Group of Five opponent.
The Highlanders had already gone to South Bend, Ind., and took down Notre Dame and then last week went to Austin, Texas and beat No. 17 Texas. So, Brad Brownell was not surprised to see his Tigers trailing by seven points in the second half to Radford.
In fact, the lead changed hands 10 times on Saturday and the game was tied 10 other times. The Highlanders led by seven points, 40-33, with 15:29 to play in the game.
However, the Tigers (7-3) fought back as David Skara, Elijah Thomas, Aamir Simms and Clyde Trapp all got on track in the second half.
Clemson went on an 8-0 run to take a 41-40 lead. The run was keyed after Shelton Mitchell hit 3-of-4 at the foul line following a foul on the Highlanders’ Devonnte Holland which was followed up by a flagrant two foul – ejecting Holland from the game after he said an inappropriate word to a Clemson player.
With possession of the ball, Simms drained a three-pointer to put the Tigers up one. It was a six-point possession for Clemson. Skara also made a layup during the run.
Brownell is hopeful Saturday’s win can go a long way in helping his team’s confidence going forward.
“As much as anything, it helps when you are working hard and competing in practice and fighting to get better. You just want to see some results,” Brownell said. “It is not easy to keep going back to work all the time and play pretty well and work really hard and you don’t get positive results.
“That’s really hard and I think sometimes people don’t understand how hard that is.”
The win over Radford (6-4) can give the Tigers some much needed confidence heading into their final three non-conference games of the season. Brownell is hopeful it can jump start a winning streak as Clemson plays Charleston Southern on Tuesday before playing at rival South Carolina a week from today.
The Tigers concluded the non-conference part of the schedule by hosting Lipscomb on Dec. 30 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“(Winning) is really hard. I don’t think people realize how hard that is,” Brownell said. “Coach (Dabo) Swinney does not have to worry about that because he just wins every game, so he does not have to feel like they are not ever rewarded. (smiling)
“But we just had to keep fighting. It was really hard for our guys. We knew we played poorly against Mississippi State, defensively, so we went to work on it all week. I thought we got better and, obviously, we still have room for improvement.
“But you just want to see your guys have success when you know they are working as hard as they have been working.”
Mitchell led the Tigers with a game-high 20 points, while Skara scored 16 points and had five rebounds. Thomas added 15 points—11 in the second half—and nine rebounds, while Trapp added 11 points, eight in the second half.
Trapp also hit the game-clinching basket with 45 seconds to play for Clemson that gave the Tigers a 70-65 lead at the time.
“I’m just real proud of our team,” Bronwell said. “I thought we fought hard today. We beat a good team today, who was really ready to play and came in here excited to compete.”
Notes: With the win, Brownell ties Bill Foster for second all-time in wins at Clemson (156) … Mitchell posted his second 20-point game of the season… Clemson moved to 6-2 this season when a Tiger scores at least 20 points… Skara tied his season-high with 16 points – which also ties his career mark as a Clemson Tiger… Skara also tied his career mark for field goals made (6)… 14 offensive rebounds was a team-high this season for Clemson… Thomas eclipsed 700 career points in the contest (now has 710) …Thomas swatted one more shot this afternoon and now has 119 in his career as a Tiger (just seven away from cracking the all-time top 10 list).