CLEMSON — Brad Brownell was candid last month when assessing his team, saying Clemson is not as talented as it was a year ago when Brownell led the Tigers to their fourth straight NCAA appearance in his first year leading the program.
The analysis appeared accurate Friday night as Clemson was sluggish early on in a season-opening, 65-44, win against Gardner-Webb in Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clemson (1-0) was tied with Gardner-Webb (0-1) at halftime, tied at 29 with a Big South team which was 11-21 last year. Junior forwards Milton Jennings and Devin Booker, who are being counted on for breakout seasons by the Clemson staff, had nearly as many points (6) as turnovers (5) in the first half.
Clemson had more turnovers, 18, than assists, 17.
“We needed to face a little adversity and we got some,” Brownell said. “I thought our older players were tremendous.”
Clemson veterans Tanner Smith and Andre Young turned fortunes around in the second half, as Clemson tightened up defensively with Smith leading the way, grabbing a career-best 14 rebounds and five steals.
While Clemson tightened up defensively, they loosened up offensively as Young connected on three of four 3-pointers for a game-high 19 points.
Freshman guard T.J. Sapp started and was second on the team with 11 points, making three of his five 3-point attempts. Sapp had just one turnover. He demonstrated a smooth shooting stroke and athleticism.
Former Pinewood Prep standout Jennings had 10 points.
Brownell said he could have had a big night had he converted a few more opportunities around the basket.
Clemson returns to action at The Citadel at 7 p.m. Wednesday.