Picking up where it left off, Clemson staved off Wofford for a 76-68 win Friday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clemson fought its way back into a game it so needed to have, avoiding a potential letdown in the process, to win its second straight game of the season.
Clemson junior guard Al-Amir Dawes put the game on ice with a clutch corner 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 6-point cushion.
“The ball bounced his way, he had some composure, took a side step and knocked it in,” coach Brad Brownell said postgame.
The game got chippy at times, but Clemson somehow managed to keep its composure. Clemson led by as many as 14 during the game’s opening frame, but the Tigers allowed Wofford to hang around in a game they had mostly dominated in every facet.
In fact, Wofford took control of the game with just under 12 minutes to play. Keaton Turner executed a 3-point play to give the Terriers a 52-49 lead. Clemson didn’t panic, though. Brownell called a timeout and Nick Honor immediately answered with a clutch shot from beyond the arc. He celebrated empathetically and then, Clemson’s fortunes began to change.
“Great win for our guys,” Brownell said. “Thought we competed extremely hard. A lot of credit to Wofford…our guys played pretty well. Defensively, I thought we did a lot of really good things and were disruptive, especially in the first half…I thought our guys really adjusted…just a good team win against a very tough-minded team.”
With P.J.Hall absent, unforced turnovers and untimely scoring droughts gave way to Wofford making its run.
Hall’s effort in the first half was undeniable. Heading into the break, he had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. He also had five defensive rebounds.
It’s why his absence was so pivotal to Clemson losing control of Friday night’s game. The offense looked stagnant without him in there, even if he scored just five second-half points. His presence alone is pivotal for a Clemson team that struggled to find answers from its second unit.
His getting into foul trouble certainly underscored what Clemson was able to accomplish on both ends of the court. The sophomore forward picked up his fourth foul with just 5 minutes and 42 seconds remaining in the game.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of managing that,” Brownell said of Hall’s foul trouble. “He’s a primary player for us that needs to be out there. We had some younger guys out there that got exposed a bit…it’s a great learning experience for P.J., but he was outstanding.”
While he spent much of the game’s final minutes on the bench, he checked back in during crunch time to help seal the win for Clemson.
He finished the game with a career-high 22 points and eight boards.
While the Tigers looked a bit sloppy and missed some open shots to start off the opening frame of play, Clemson was still able to jump out to a fast start, aided by a strong first-half defensive performance and the team’s offense running through the likes of Hall and David Collins.
That, of course, persisted in the second half, but Wofford was finally able to get shots to start falling. Clemson headed into the break with a 39-31 lead after dominating the first half. Though, it wouldn’t last long.
Clemson’s defensive effort in the first half and down the stretch of Friday’s game can’t be overstated. It’s what allowed the Tigers to command a lead for much of the night, even with multiple scoring droughts throughout the course of the contest. Of course, Wofford was able to claw back and make Friday’s game interesting, especially for the majority of the second half, but that had more to do with Clemson’s self-inflicted wounds.
The Tigers were plagued with some untimely fouls — they had 8 first-half team fouls — and nine turnovers. Wofford was able to score 11 points off those turnovers, which allowed the Terriers to hang around, for the most part.
Clemson turned the ball over 10 more times in the second half, for a total of 19 on the night.
Clemson crashed the boards with relative ease in the game’s first 20 minutes. The Tigers outrebounded Wofford 18-10 in the first half and finished the night with a 36-31 margin.
Speaking of defense, Clemson got a big boost from the defensive paralysis of junior guard Nick Honor. He had five steals on the night. Honor does a great job of getting his hands in passing lanes. He’s a tenacious defender, who can defend the length of the floor.
As for Collins, he looked exactly like the player Clemson thought it was getting, at least in the first half. The USF grad transfer not only showed off how physical he can be in the paint on both ends of the court but also just how good of a facilitator he can be.
Collins’ physicality and court vision will be crucial to Clemson’s success throughout the season. It certainly proved to be pivotal as that aspect of Clemson’s game on both ends of the floor disappeared in the second half.
Even with Collins and Hall not adding much offensively in the game’s second frame, the Tigers relied on Dawes, Honor and Hunter Tyson to carry them home to a victory on Friday.
The trio combined for 36 of Clemson’s 76 points.
Brownell yanked Dawes from the court just less than two minutes into Friday night’s contest. While he was the hero for the Tigers in Game 1, it didn’t take long for Clemson’s coach to pull the team’s starting guard.
“He was a little lazy on a defensive assignment…and I took him out and told him that’s not happening, we aren’t doing that,” Brownell said. “One of the errors was something we talk religiously about all 72 hours and worked on and practiced it. If you’re a coach and you’re worth your salt, you’re gonna discipline all your players. He made a mistake…and obviously, he responded. He’s a competitive guy. I mean, he wants to win. I’m not surprised he made that shot.”
Dawes sat for a bit, while he watched senior guard Chase Hunter run with the 1s. After checking back in, Dawes immediately drilled a step-back 3-pointer from beyond the arc to give Clemson a 14-6 lead.
While he wasn’t as effective offensively as he was in Clemson’s season-opening victory, Dawes again drilled an important 3-pointer to give Clemson a 4-point lead and some breathing room with just over 5 minutes to play.
It was almost poetic. It was a mirror image of how Friday night’s matchup progressed. Clemson fought through unforced errors and adversity to come out on top, much like Dawes.
The Tigers will be back in action on Monday, Nov. 15 against Bryant University at 7 p.m. at the Littlejohn Coliseum.
Time to get the latest Clemson apparel to show your Tiger pride. Order your officially licensed Clemson gear right here!