by Justin Mathis
CLEMSON, S.C. – Prior to Tuesday night’s game against in-state rival South Carolina, Brad Brownell asked for Clemson fans to show up and pack out Littlejohn Coliseum to support a Tigers basketball team who is off to one of their best starts in roughly a decade.
The fans responded, to the tune of 8,031 making the trip out to the game.
With just a few days remaining until Christmas, the Tigers gave those who showed up an early present of sorts. A career-high 25 points from Marcquise Reed provided a big spark for Clemson as they pulled away in the second half as they picked up a 64-48 victory over the Gamecocks.
In the opening minutes of the contest, both teams struggled to find some consistency on the offensive end, with the deficit being no larger than nine points at any juncture of the first half. South Carolina struggled to find easy looks, due in large part to Clemson’s suffocating defense.
“We didn’t play any zone tonight,” Brownell said. “We played all man-to-man for 40 minutes. We practiced some zone in case we might use it, but we just guarded them. Our guys buckled their chinstrap on and I thought we were prepared with a plan of how to guard things.”
South Carolina tied the game at 19 on a Wesley Myers layup with 5:42 left before halftime, but on the ensuing Clemson possession, Donte Grantham knocked down a three to put the Tigers back in front by three. Clemson took a five point lead into the break.
“We’re a better basketball team than we were ten days ago,” South Carolina head coach Frank Martin said. “We played a pretty good first half. In the second half, we made some bad mistakes offensively, which gave them breakaways and got the game to that nine, ten point mark. We couldn’t make a shot, couldn’t score in the second half. We had some shots – you’ve got to make them. Some of our guys are going to learn what it’s like to go on the road and not shoot any free throws in the second half. It’s part of life. You can’t make excuses – you’ve got to go play.”
In the second stanza, Clemson continued to use their defense to create problems for the Gamecocks, especially with their guard play. South Carolina had trouble on several occasions finding the open man on the perimeter, which hurt them several times.
“Their first six guys are all seniors,” Martin pointed out. “They don’t make mistakes and they play well. They’re good defensively. When you play in a game and throw the ball in there to Chris Silva and they commit a total of seven team fouls the whole game, they’re real good defensively. When you play a team that doesn’t foul and all you do is throw it in the post, you’ve got to make your three’s.
SOUTH CAROLINA POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE:
South Carolina was 0 for 11 from the arc before Hassani Gravett knocked down a three pointer with 6:46 left in the game. The Gamecocks only made two of 16 three point attempts.
Reed scored 18 of his career-high 25 points for Clemson in the second half, with 12 coming from behind the arc.
“We’re playing pretty good basketball right now,” Reed stated. “It’s a good bounce-back game for us, coming off the win at Florida, for us to come back with a good mindset, a positive mindset. We’ve got a very mature team – a lot of juniors and seniors. That maturity is carrying over to our whole team.”
“I’m really pleased,” Brownell added. “I think where (Marcquise) has made some great strides is he’s not allowing nights when it’s hard to get the ball to him and not scoring as many points – he’s not letting that bother him at all, he’s just playing. He’s playing with better technique, so he’s not fouling as much.”
CLEMSON POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE:
In the second half alone, Clemson outscored South Carolina 33-22 and never held a lead smaller than 10 points for the last 13:36 of game action. The Tigers also made eight of their last 10 shots from the field to close out the game with a 16 point victory.
Clemson was 20 of 46 (43.5%) from the field, while South Carolina was 19 of 54 (35.2%). The Tigers also made eight of 20 three point attempts. For Clemson, two other players finished in double figures as Gabe DeVoe had 12 points, followed by Shelton Mitchell with 10. Elijah Thomas also had eight points and five blocks.
South Carolina’s Chris Silva had a team-high 12 points on four of 10 shooting and Wesley Myers chipped in 10 of the Gamecocks’ 11 bench points. Clemson held the Gamecocks to their lowest point total of the season.
Clemson (10-1) will host Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday, December 22nd at 3 PM, while South Carolina (8-3) will host Division II Limestone College on Wednesday, December 27th at 3 PM.
Follow @CHDCarolinas for up to the minute news about Clemson and all of your favorite teams in North & South Carolina.