CLEMSON - The measuring sticks get much higher at the start of the new calendar year, but it's hard for Clemson men's basketball to be more encouraged by its calling card than it is through 10 games.
Who: Clemson (8-2) at Auburn (4-3)
When: Dec. 19, 8 p.m.
Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.
TV: Fox Sports Net
With their 71-35 dusting of Furman Saturday night, the Tigers flexed their muscles on defense once again, allowing the program's fewest points in nearly 18 years.
The Tigers (8-2) entered the weekend with the best statistical defense in the country at 53.6 points per game and .350 field-goal percentage allowed. Both figures dropped a little more Saturday, with the Paladins (4-6) - averaging 69.2 points a game beforehand - producing 35 points on 30.2 percent shooting.
"Really pleased with the way our guys defended for the whole 40 minutes," head coach Brad Brownell said. "Showed very good defensive discipline, to stay focus and guard for that long."
This was the first time Clemson doubled up an opponent since a 79-39 win over Liberty on Nov. 17, 2009, the year before Brownell's arrival.
In Brownell's first three years, the Tigers held three opponents to 40 points or less. They've done so three times in 10 games this season.
Furman's leading two guards, Stephen Croone and Larry Wideman, were a combined 4-for-19 shooting from the floor; Wideman, who averages 14 points per game, did not score.
"I think are guys are more experienced and we have better positioning," sophomore guard Jordan Roper said. "Tonight, one of the major things we wanted to emphasize was deflections, because the past few games, we haven't been getting that many deflections. We wanted to get steals, blocks and tipped passes, just have more activity defensively."
Mission accomplished. Nine steals, nine blocks, just the second time this year the Tigers had at least nine of each.
It actually was a tight ballgame late in the first half, with Clemson clutching a 21-17 lead before the home team registered a 17-0 run over a nearly seven-minute span to put it out of reach.
"We have to be extremely aggressive on offense, too. We were a little too passive in the first half," junior forward K.J. McDaniels said. "I feel like we picked it up a little bit on the second half, and the team did great being mature enough to go out there and handle business."
Roper scored a season-high 16 points in his first start since Nov. 13, while McDaniels and Devin Coleman each had 12 points. McDaniels added four blocks, while Landry Nnoko grabbed 11 rebounds and Sidy Djitte hauled in 10 boards.
In a way, Clemson's impressive defensive numbers are inflated because of its slowdown tempo. The Tigers average 62.2 possessions in games they're in, which according to KenPom.com is the seventh-slowest among 351 Division I teams.
"The really good teams are able to do all of (those styles,)" Brownell said. "You can play in high-possession games and really score, you can get into the knockdown games and grind it out when you have to. We're fine with that.
"We're not as potent offensively, so the higher possession games in some games are not as good for us. We certainly understand how to bump and grind with people, and are willing to do that as necessary."