The Clemson Women’s basketball team opened up the new season Wednesday with a 77-71 win over Furman at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
Kendall Spray and Amari Robinson both scored 16 points. Spray shot 4-7 from behind the three-point line and Robinson was 6-7 from the field. In a strong defensive performance, the Tigers forced 22 turnovers.
“It works really well when the first three shots of the game I think are Kendall and Destiny (Thomas) nailing threes,” Clemson coach Amanda Butler said afterward. “You get the defense kind of stretched a little bit and we’re able to get Kobi (Thornton) in a one-on-one situation and Amar (Robinson) in a one-on-one situation, which they’re all highly skilled players and difficult to handle one-on-one. I think we balanced our offense really well.”
After opening up the game with a turnover, the Tigers showed off their deep range early. Spray started the scoring as she drained two straight three pointers, giving the Tigers an early 6-0 lead.
Spray added another two points to her first quarter to go along with two assists and two rebounds as the Tigers ended the quarter with a 17-14 lead.
Clemson (1-0) came out even stronger in the second quarter, imposing themselves on the defensive end with a very well run zone. Taking advantage of an early turnover, Thornton received a pass at the top off the key. With a couple of size up dribbles, she backed down her defender and hit a fade away jumper, drawing a foul. Converting the-and-one, Clemson took a 22-17 lead.
“I think that we have the potential to be a very good defensive unit,” Butler said. “We still have a lot of work to do but I thought for moments, we can play really tough defense a variety of ways. We’ve got to be able to do it a little bit more consistently and seamlessly when we have rotations.”
It was all Thornton in the second as she converted her bucket of the game with 2:26 left in the quarter. After receiving a pass cutting to the rim, Thornton went up strong absorbing contact and finishing the layup.
After hitting the free throw, the Tigers lead jumped to 40-24. The senior forward ended the quarter with 11 points and two rebounds, shooting 4-5 from the field and a perfect 3-3 from the free throw line. Spray also had 11 points as the team shot an even 50 percent for 44-32 halftime lead.
“Kobi’s a senior,” Butler said. “When we’re saying we want to get paint touches and we want to get Kobi one-on-one on the block, that’s the way a senior is supposed to be playing. Demand the ball, make the play whether there’s contact or not and I really think that’s what Kobi did showing her leadership.”
After Furman got within eight of the Tigers to start the second half, Clemson crashed the boards. Starting with a Robinson layup, the Tigers went on a mini-run to up the lead back to 13 points.
The Tigers maintain the lead throughout the third quarter behind the play of Robinson’s five-point quarter. Clemson lead by 11, 58-47, heading into the final period.
Robinson continued her strong play in the fourth as she opened the quarter up with a bucket after receiving a pass at the top of the three-point arc, power dribbled past her opponent and finished with a hard layup, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
“I was really nervous,” Robinson said. “Coming out I had the first game jitters. I always have the jitters before a game but this one was different because I was starting for the first time. I think I just played how I know how to play and the team had faith in me.”
Heading into the final minute of regulation with a 14-point lead, the Tigers gave up a quick seven points in just 30 seconds of play time. After a technical foul was called on Bennett, with 34 seconds left, Furman sank all three of their free throw attempts to put the game within six points.
Getting sent to the line with just 16 seconds left in regulation, Clemson’s Chyna Meertens sealed the Tigers’ victory, hitting both of her free throws and putting the game out of reach.
Clemson will next play Saturday as the Tigers face Navy at Littlejohn Coliseum.