Clemson cleans it up, takes momentum into Charleston Classic

Clemson cleans it up, takes momentum into Charleston Classic

Basketball

Clemson cleans it up, takes momentum into Charleston Classic

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Clemson’s men’s basketball team got elementary with the short window it had to prepare for its game Monday night.

It might sound strange given the opponent was a Bryant team in the 200s in the KenPom rankings coming off a blowout loss at Rhode Island, but coughing up possessions left and right the way the Tigers had through their first two games will do that.

“We did basic partner passing. We did pivoting. Jump stopping,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We worked against trapping. We worked hardened backs against pressure. Back tipping. You name it, we worked on it for two days.”

Clemson beat Presbyterian and Wofford to start the season, but the Tigers, who had to rally from second-half deficits in each, didn’t make it easy on themselves in part because of turnovers. The Tigers’ new-look group has seven newcomers and two new starters joining Hunter Tyson, Nick Honor and Al-Amir Dawes in the first five, so things aren’t always going to operate smoothly with that kind of transition.

It showed in the first two games.

The Tigers (3-0) turned it over 14 times in the opener against Presbyterian in a 64-53 victory, one that saw Clemson rally from 10 down in the second half. Clemson got even more sloppy against Wofford on Friday, committing 19 turnovers that kept the Tigers from pulling away in a 76-68 win.

“Coach is big on turnovers,” Honor said. “It really drives him crazy from the summer time into the whole season. So we just looked it over and started to dumb things down a little bit in practice, getting back to the basic fundamentals.”

Clemson responded with its best offensive showing of the season against Bryant, which did plenty to try to disrupt the Tigers’ rhythm even more. The Bulldogs mixed up their defensive looks throughout the night, throwing a 2-3 zone, man, traps and full-court pressure at Clemson. But the Tigers largely handled it all en route to one of their most efficient performances in a while.

Clemson turned it over just seven times, helping the Tigers maximize their chances on the offensive end. Clemson got up 62 shots and finished with season-highs in points (93), field-goal percentage (56.5) and 3-pointers (10) in a 23-point victory. The Tigers’ 52 points in the opening 20 minutes were just two shy of matching the most Clemson has ever scored in a first half in Brownell’s 12 seasons as head coach (54 against Alabama A&M in 2019).

Leading the way was Honor, who dished out a career-high seven assists.

“And only one turnover with all the pressure and things he was dealing with,” Brownell said.

Clemson’s backcourt, which includes Dawes and South Florida transfer David Collins, was responsible for 17 of those turnovers through the first two games. On Monday, the guards combined for just three, and nobody turned it over more than once.

“I think we’ll be fine. Just a few little mental errors,” Honor said. “But we’re still getting to know each other well playing-wise.”

The Tigers’ best showing of the young season came at a good time considering what’s looming. Clemson will hit the road later this week for what will be a significant step up in competition. The Tigers will face Temple (1-1) on Thursday in the opening round of the Charleston Classic.

Depending on the outcomes of their first games, Clemson, which will play three games in the tournament, could meet No. 22 St. Bonaventure on Friday. The tournament field also includes fellow Power Six programs West Virginia, Ole Miss and Marquette as well as Boise State and Elon.

But the Tigers are taking a wave of momentum into the weekend after cleaning it up their act.

“That was our emphasis,” Brownell said. “Obviously it paid off. The was really a good performance by our team.”

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