By Justin Mathis
Clemson, S.C. – At halftime of the game between Louisiana-Lafayette and Clemson on Friday afternoon, Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick made an appearance and all the kids in the audience were invited to come down on the court. They swarmed around him on the court and were given candy, along with a chance to shoot one free throw each.
Clemson clashed with the visiting Ragin’ Cajuns in the final non-conference tilt of the season and for a second straight game, the Tigers’ defense stepped up and held the opposition to their lowest point total of the season. Four players, led by Donte Grantham, notched double digit point totals and helped the Tigers pull away to a 89-60 victory in front of 6,847 fans.
In the opening minutes on the contest, Louisiana-Lafayette and Clemson traded punches, and even the lead, leading up to the first official timeout. The Ragin’ Cajuns entered Friday afternoon’s contest averaging a strong 88.6 points per game.
“Great way to finish up first semester,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “Our guys played great basketball today – I thought we played really well. (Louisiana-Lafayette) is a dangerous team – very talented, very athletic. They showed flashes of why they’re 10-3. Our defense was really good in a lot of ways – challenged most shots and rebounded it well against a very good rebounding team.”
The Tigers couldn’t create much separation until the latter stages of the first half, due in large part to their defense, which caused Louisiana-Lafayette to go on a scoring drought that lasted nearly four minutes in duration and ended at the 13:09 mark on a Larenz Stalcup.
“When we started on the defensive end, it just carries over offensively,” senior forward Donte Grantham pointed out. “Especially since we’re so good in the open court in transition that when we get a stop, it’s deadly. I think that when we’re locked in defensively, the offense is going to come naturally. I think we take more pride (in our defense this season).”
The Ragin’ Cajuns continued to struggle against Clemson’s tough defense in the second half, making only one of their last 16 shots from the field, including a 0-for-13 stretch. Louisiana-Lafayette made 16 of 57 shot attempts (28.1%), which is also their lowest shooting percentage so far this season.
Grantham notched the fourth double-double of his career (third this season) at Clemson and also surpassed another milestone after throwing down a dunk in the first half, which helped him eclipse the 1,000 point mark as a Tiger. Shelton Mitchell had 15 points, followed by Elijah Thomas and David Skara off the bench with 15 and 11 points, respectively. Clemson knocked down 32 of their 56 shots from the field (57.1%), including a season-high 11 shots from beyond the arc.
Marcus Stroman, a transfer from South Carolina who sat out last season due to NCAA rules, led the Ragin’ Cajuns with 16 points, along with Frank Bartley’s 14. Louisiana-Lafayette (10-3) is off until December 29th, when they visit Little Rock on December 29th.
Clemson (11-1) extends their winning streak to seven games and also earns their best start against regular-season non-conference opponents since going 14-0 in 2008-09. The Tigers’ next game will be against Kevin Keatts and the North Carolina State Wolfpack on December 30th at 4 PM.