After picking up a road win over Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten challenge this past Wednesday, the Clemson Tigers looked to continue their strong start to the season against the UNC Asheville Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon.
Despite finding themselves in a dog fight early on, Clemson, led by Marcquise Reed’s 19 point effort, caught fire in the second half and pulled away en route to a 83-57 victory at Littlejohn Coliseum.
In the first half, UNC Asheville showed why they were the preseason favorite to win the Big South Conference. The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, with four points coming from Ahamd Thomas, forcing a 30 second timeout from Clemson head coach Brad Brownell.
“(Coach Brownell) told us (in the huddle), ‘I told you that this team is pretty good,’” Reed recalled. “Wake up and get them out of their rhythm – they’re too comfortable right now coming up to the first media timeout.”
Both teams continued to trade proverbial punches for the remainder of the first half until Clemson used a 14-4 run to take a 34-24 lead with less than 90 seconds remaining until the intermission.
“I’m super pleased with the way we played, especially after the first timeout,” Brownell said. “I thought we imposed our will defensively on them and there was a wearing effect into the second half. I thought (UNC Asheville) did a good job on interior defense there for a while, then we found a rhythm and played better in the second half, in terms of offensive execution.”
Clemson opened up the second stanza with an 18-4 run, keyed by a pair of three pointers from Reed, and built a 54-30 lead less than seven minutes in to create some separation for the Tigers.
“(Marcquise) is just one of those guys where the game finds him,” Brownell remarked. “He does a pretty good job of just playing. I remember last year where there was a game or two where he tried to do too much, but I thought he was really good today.”
UNC Asheville entered the game as the second-best team in three point percentage in the country, but the Bulldogs ended up making only five of 19 attempts (26.3%) from beyond the arc. Ahmad Thomas led the Bulldogs with a double-double, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Reed’s 19 points led all scorers, while his teammate Donte Grantham notched the third double-double of his career with 17 points and 10 rebounds. As a team, the Tigers shot 52.2% (35 of 57) for the game, including 20 of 35 in the second half, while UNC Asheville was 21 of 61 (34.4%).
Clemson will have a few days to prepare for another group of Bulldogs as Samford will make the trip to Clemson for a Saturday afternoon tilt on December 9th at 3 PM.