by Justin Mathis
CLEMSON, SC – The winter weather sweeping across the Eastern Seaboard, which includes some bone chilling cold temperatures, apparently snuck inside Littlejohn Coliseum during Saturday’s high noon ACC showdown between the Louisville Cardinals and Clemson Tigers.
It took an additional five minutes to decide this crucial ACC matchup, but down the stretch, the Tigers (14-1, 3-0 ACC) knocked down enough shots in timely fashion in order to claim a 74-69 victory over the Cardinals (11-4, 1-1), the 10th in a row this season for Clemson.
Clemson opened the game on a 6-2 run, but for a good portion of the first half, neither team could find much of a rhythm on their respective offensive end of the court. Late in the first half, Louisville went on an 8-0 run that took them from a six point deficit to a 23-21 lead at the 2:01 mark. Aamir Simms made a layup with a minute left that eventually sent both teams to intermission deadlocked at 23.
“Both teams really struggled to score,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought that both defenses were a big part of it. I thought that (Louisville) bothered us with some things and I thought we bothered them. Our guys were prepared and we showed in overtime that we can score and play better offense. I’m really pleased that we could win a game where we had to defend.”
To start the second stanza, Louisville built a 30-25 advantage during the first four minutes, which was aided by Clemson missing their first six shots of the period, including all three attempts from behind the arc. Clemson responded by uncorking a 17-4 run, which included Marcquise Reed knocking down a three, to jump ahead of the Cardinals by a 42-34 margin.
Louisville managed to outscore Clemson 21-14 during the last nine minutes and 31 seconds of the game, which tied the game up at 55. The Cardinals ended up with the last possession in regulation with less than ten seconds left, but it came up empty as a Quentin Snider three-pointer was off the mark.
“I told our players (that) we certainly played hard enough, we played well enough, I thought, in every area except one – to win the game,” Louisville interim head coach David Padgett explained. “That one area cost us and it was turnovers. There’s not an easy way, if there is one at all, to overcome turning the ball over 21 times, especially on the road. You’ve got to give Clemson a lot of credit for that – they were physical, they tried to deny our catches on the wings, dribble handoffs, those kinds of things and they had 15 steals because of that. That was the major difference in the game.”
In the extra frame, four quick points from Reed put Clemson ahead 59-55 less than two minutes in. After a jumper from Ray Spalding, Gabe DeVoe knocked down a pair of three’s in consecutive possessions to put the Tigers ahead 65-57 with 1:51 left. Clemson forced the Cardinals to foul late in overtime, but knocked down nine of their last 12 free throws to emerge with the win.
“I missed my first four (shots), I think, in the game, but it just felt good to see the ball go through the hoop in a big moment like that,” DeVoe stated. “I think we’re getting good looks – I rushed a couple early, but I stayed confident throughout the game and kept shooting the ball.”
Clemson had four players finish in double figures, led by Reed with 24 points. Shelton Mitchell and Gabe DeVoe each scored 13 points, while Elijah Thomas notched his fifth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Ray Spalding led Louisville by notching a double-double of his own with 16 points and 14 rebounds, despite being limited to 29 minutes of game action due to being mired in foul trouble. Deng Adel also tallied a double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling in 11 rebounds.
Overall, Louisville shots 28 of 62 (45%) from the field, while Clemson made 25 of their 68 shot attempts (37%). The Cardinals and Tigers were dead even mathematically from behind the arc, going four of 14 and seven of 24, respectively (29%). Louisville also outrebounded Clemson by a 46-35 margin and outscored the Tigers 38-30 in the paint.
With the win, Clemson has now won 10 straight games this season, which is a first during Brad Brownell’s tenure at Clemson. The Tigers improve to 3-0 in the ACC for the first time since the 2006-07 season and for the fifth time in men’s basketball history.
Next up for the Tigers will be a visit to PNC Arena on Thursday, January 11th, where they will face the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 PM.
Louisville will make the trip to Tallahassee, Florida on Wednesday, January 10th, where the Cardinals will face the 24th-ranked Florida State Seminoles. Tipoff for that contest is also set for 9 PM.