Clemson cruises past Delaware State, 58-37
CLEMSON — Defense has been a hallmark of Brad Brownell’s tenure as Clemson head coach, and it was quite evident Wednesday night.
The Tigers used stifling defense and never trailed in cruising past Delaware State, 58-37, in non-conference action. It tied the lowest point total by an opponent in Brownell’s three-plus years in Clemson; Clemson beat Georgia Tech 56-37 on Feb. 21, 2012.
Clemson improved to 2-0, while Delaware State fell to 1-2. The Tigers host in-state rival South Carolina on Sunday, while the Hornets travel to George Washington Tuesday.
Brownell credited a mix of mostly reserve players with leading a defensive charge that held the Hornets to four second-half field goals.
“I think we found a group that was really locked in on defense,” Brownell said. “They were getting stops and didn’t give many easy looks. In all honesty, we stayed with them through a TV timeout and didn’t switch after three, four minutes. We let them play and keep getting stops. The guys off the bench were doing a good job.”
Delaware State coach Greg Jackson said the Tigers’ defense demoralized his team.
“We kind of fell apart,” Jackson said. “We lost our composure in the second half. And anytime you’re playing a team on this level, as strong and talented as Clemson, you can’t afford to give them so many possessions. We got back in the ballgame in the second half and just came down the floor and lost our composure and they were able to get some easy buckets, and from then on we were lost.”
Clemson used a balanced attack led by junior guard Damarcus Harrison, who led all scorers with 15 points. Junior swingman K.J. McDaniels contributed 11 points. Kendall Gray led Delaware State with eight points.
Delaware State lost to its second ACC foe in three nights after falling at Georgia Tech Monday, and the outcome was never really in doubt. Clemson took control with a 17-6 first-half run and led 22-10 with 6:49 left, taking a 32-23 lead into the break.
Harrison scored seven points in the run, hitting four free throws and a 3-pointer. He led all scorers with 10 points in the half.
Leading 34-25 with 16:06 left, Clemson turned on its defense. A 16-6 run pushed the lead to 50-31 with 7:02 remaining, eliminating any hopes of a Hornet upset. The Tigers led by as many as 24 points. Delaware State made just four field goals in the second half, and DeAndre Haywood’s layup with 24 seconds left ended an 8 minute drought from the field.
The Hornets shot just 16.7 percent after halftime and 26.7 percent for the game. Their 14 points was the fewest by an opponent in Brownell’s Clemson tenure. Brownell said his team “executed our game plan perfectly,” holding Delaware State to 1-of-13 from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, Clemson made 47.6 percent of its shots after halftime and 41.3 percent for the game.
Five Clemson players scored at least seven points - freshman forward Jaron Blossomgame had eight points and eight rebounds, and sophomore guard Jordan Roper had seven points and four rebounds with three assists.
Harrison’s total was just behind his career-high of 19 points set last year against Virginia Tech. He made a pair of 3-pointers and hit 5 of 6 free throws.
Brownell said Harrison “fought me” to keep a rainbow-style jumper all last season after transferring from BYU, but finally convinced him to use a flatter shot in the offseason.
“You want to make shots, want to keep getting minutes,” Harrison said. “He told me if I’m not making shots I’m not going to play. So I needed to make a change.”
It has worked. Harrison scored in double figures just five times last season, but has done so in each of Clemson’s first two games.
“I just think I’m playing better and more confident, that’s all,” he said. “I play my game, I try not to force too many things. Having that second year in the program builds a lot of confidence.”