Clemson recovered from what coach Brad Brownell termed a “smack in the mouth” and rallied for a 72-58 victory over Temple in Thursday’s final game of the opening day of the Charleston Classic at TD Arena.
Junior K.J. McDaniels had his third 20-point game of the season to lead the Tigers, who improved to 4-0. But it was the play of 6-10 sophomore Landry Nnoko that really put a smile on Tiger fans’ faces. Nnoko had only scored three points in Clemson’s three previous games but he finished with a double double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. The Tigers also got 14 points from Jordan Roper and 13 from Rod Hall.
“He’s better than he’s played,” said Brownell, who challenged Nnoko after the 6-10 player from Cameroon scored only two points in the Tigers’ win over South Carolina Sunday. “He played great and that’s important for our team.”
“Coach Brownell told me ‘You make your own luck’ and that’s what I was trying to do. I was trying to focus on defense,” Nnoko said.
The game was a rematch of the inaugural Charleston Classic championship game in 2008 when the Tigers scored a 76-72 win.
Temple had the Tigers’ number for much of the first half, jumping ahead by 12 points, most of those coming in the paint as the Owls penetrated a porous Clemson defense for layups. Meanwhile, the Tigers couldn’t get the ball inside and their outside shots were off.
It took an 11-2 run to end the first half to get Clemson back into the game. Trailing 32-20 with 3:39 left, Nnoko got things rolling with a baby hook, then McDaniels hit from outside. McDaniels scored five of his points during the surge as the Tigers pulled within 34-31 at the buzzer.
“We got everybody together and told them to not give up. We wanted to draw some fouls and get (the ball) to the goal,” McDaniels said. The Tigers’ late first-half surge helped erase a big rebounding deficit, and Clemson continued to show plenty of fire as the second half began.
The game was tied at 51 but Clemson went on a 16-5 run to take control and pulled away for the opportunity to face Davidson in a winner’s bracket game at 9:30 Friday. Brownell said the Tigers got their defense set better and shot better in the second half.
Brownell said he was thankful for the large group of Clemson fans (attendance was announced at 2,311) and hoped plenty would be on hand for the game against the Wildcats.
“I know a lot will be going up to Clemson (for Saturday’s football game against The Citadel), but I hope they will wait until Saturday morning to go,” Brownell said. “It was nice looking up and seeing the orange in the stands.”
Davidson 94, Georgia 82
Davidson (1-3) won its first game of the season, going on a 13-4 run at the end of the first half, and cruised to a 94-82 win over Georgia (1-2) to earn a spot against the winner of the Clemson-Temple game.
De’Mon Brooks scored 21 points and Brian Sullivan added 20 for the Wildcats.
Georgia was led by Nemanja Djurisic who scored 19 points.
No. 19 New Mexico 97, Alabama-Birmingham 94, 2OT
No. 19 New Mexico (3-0) managed to remain unbeaten, but it took two overtimes before the Lobos could shake Alabama-Birmingham (3-1) for a 97-94 win.
Cameron Bairstow led New Mexico with 21 points and eight rebounds. Alex Kirk had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Chad Frazier scored 34 points to lead Alabama-Birmingham, and Rod Rucker had a double-double with 18 points and 20 rebounds.
Massachusetts 96, Nebraska 90
Massachusetts (4-0) had six players score in double figures, led by Derrick Gordon’s 20, as the Minutemen held on for a 96-90 victory over Nebraska.
Terran Pettaway led Nebraska with 28 points.