by Justin Mathis, @J_Math23

CLEMSON, SC – An old basketball adage used by many coaches usually centers around getting shots to fall in order to win. On Saturday afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum, that was the obstacle that the Clemson Tigers had to overcome against the Southern Conference’s Samford Bulldogs.

It took a while to find a rhythm, but in the latter portion of the second half, Clemson found an offensive spark, which enabled them to claim an 81-59 victory over Samford.

In the first half, Clemson could only muster 11 made shots on 30 attempts from the field, which included a four-for-20 mark from behind the arc. When that was combined with Samford’s 10-for-21 clip in the first half (four of seven from the arc), it added up to a slim 35-30 lead at the break for the Tigers.

“We’ve actually been sluggish in several games,” Brownell said. “I don’t really know why it is because our guys aren’t showing that in the locker room. It wasn’t so much like defensively, we were doing all these things wrong and offensively, we’ve got all these turnovers… we just weren’t making any shots. That’s not easy to coach or fix or play. Shooting and trying harder to make shots is like trying harder on a four foot putt – it’s not easy. We just had to stick with it.”

“I think all of us were kind of down,” guard Shelton Mitchell admitted. “We felt that we were missing easy shots. That negative energy messed up our team defensively. Once we hit a couple of shots and coach got on us, we got our rhythm back.”

Samford opened the second stanza with a 7-0 run and took a 38-37 lead on a three pointer from Demetrius Denzel-Dyson at the 16:09 mark. The visiting Bulldogs extended it to a 12-3 run and that led to a timeout from Brownell, who wanted to send a message to his team.

“Coach talked to us in the huddle and gave us a pretty good motivational speech,” forward Elijah Thomas recalled. “But at the same time, Samford’s a really good team. We just had to match their energy.”

Coming out of the timeout, the Tigers found a bit of a rhythm on the offensive end and never had a double-digit lead until the 6:38 mark, where Clemson extended their lead out to 63-53 on a layup from Mitchell.

“It was the first time in a while that I really had to get after them a little bit,” Brownell stated. “I made them stop and look down at the other bench, (then said) ‘Those guys feel pretty good about themselves right now. The longer this goes, the longer you’re going to allow them to believe they’re going to win. You better snap out of it and get after them right away.’ Thankfully, we did that.”

Over the last 9:29 of regulation, Clemson managed to outscore Samford by a 26-6 margin, which included a 19-2 run that helped the Tigers build a 74-55 lead with under four minutes to play.

All five Clemson starters finished in double figures, led by Shelton Mitchell and Donte Grantham with 20 points apiece. Gabe DeVoe scored 14, followed by Marcquise Reed with 13 and Elijah Thomas, who notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Justin Coleman led Samford with 17 points, along with Denzel-Dyson, who scored 12 points off the bench.

Clemson finished the game 25 for 60 from the field (9 for 36 from the arc), while Samford knocked down 21 of their 47 shot attempts (9 of 21 from the arc).

With the win, Clemson improves to 8-1, their best start since the 2008-09 campaign. Clemson’s next game will be at the Orange Bowl Classic (Sunrise, Florida) against the Florida Gators on Saturday, December 16th at 4:30 PM.