CHARLOTTE, N.C. —Earning a hard-fought win in their first road game of the season, the Clemson Tigers defeated the Charlotte 49ers, 80-73, at Halton Arena on Monday afternoon.
Charlotte led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, but Clemson fought back and went on to lead by as many as seven points in the fourth quarter.
“You’ve got to give Charlotte credit for going on the first run and putting us on our heels in the first quarter. But, after that, we won every quarter and held them to 12 points in the second quarter,” Clemson coach Amanda Butler said. “We were able to shuffle people in and out to keep fresh legs on the floor. We were never able to pull away, but our players always had composure.”
Shooting 50.0 percent from the field, Clemson (3-0) knocked down 30-of-60 field goal attempts, including four 3-pointers. The Tigers also won the rebounding margin 38-34.
In a matchup that featured 11 ties and nine lead changes, the 49ers (0-2) actually led for the majority of the game, but the Tigers, who forced 19 turnovers, made enough big plays in the second half to secure the win. Clemson tallied 30 points in the paint and 20 points in the fast break and also amassed 19 points off turnovers.
Delicia Washington manned the charge for the Tigers, finishing with an impressive stat line of 27 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. Washington, the game’s leading scorer, went 11-for-17 on shot attempts. Kendall Spray, who came up clutch late in the action, scored 15 points and sank three shots from beyond the arc.
She also recorded four rebounds and three assists. Tylar Bennett chipped in 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and tied with Washington for the team lead in rebounding after pulling down eight boards. Octavia Jett-Wilson led Charlotte with 17 points and eight rebounds.
“Delicia had a nice game, putting the ball in the hole for us. The story of the game was Tylar [Bennett] and her playmaking in critical moments,” Butler said. “We all know the type of competitor Kendall [Spray] is. Give credit to Charlotte and the way they guarded her. But when it’s press time, if she can see the rim, it’s going up. She just has that type of mentality and plays with the poise and confidence of an upperclassman.”
Washington incited the Clemson offense early on, creating space and knocking down several jump shots. The 49ers led 24-19 through one quarter of play, but Spray provided the Tigers with momentum heading into the second quarter by netting a three-ball in the final seconds of the first period. With 2:44 remaining in the first half, Clemson took its first lead of the game, thanks to a Washington jumper that made the score 32-31 in favor of the Tigers. Charlotte’s Jacee Busick beat the buzzer at the end of the second quarter with a game-tying 3-pointer.
The halftime score stood at 36-36, but the Tigers went on to outscore the 49ers 23-20 in the third quarter. Bennett knocked down a couple of shots late in the period, leading to Clemson taking a 59-56 advantage into the fourth quarter. A layup by Washington increased Clemson’s lead to seven points with 7:37 remaining, but Charlotte responded with a 9-0 run to take the lead. Following a scoring drought of just over two minutes, Spray broke a tie by connecting on a trey. At that point, Clemson was up 70-67 with 2:21 on the game clock, and the Tigers were able to stave off the 49ers down the stretch, pulling out an 80-73 win.
“One of the great things about this team is the confidence they have in each other. There was a great deal of composure today,” Butler said. “I didn’t see any franticness or players getting rattled. That’s critical in games like this on the road. Overall, I’m just really pleased with our effort, particularly in the second half.”
The Tigers will take part in another weekday afternoon contest on Wednesday. Returning home to Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson will host the Mercer Bears (1-1). Set to tip off at noon, the contest in Clemson, S.C., will air on ACC Network Extra.
–Courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications