CLEMSON – The Presbyterian Blue Hose went into Friday night’s season opener against Clemson knowing the zone defense might be the only chance they had against the 24th-ranked Tigers, especially after the Tigers struggled against the zone last season.
The tactic didn’t work however, and newcomer Noel Johnson had four of Clemson's 14 3-pointers in a season-opening 84-41 victory over Presbyterian at Littlejohn Coliseum Friday night.
“I thought we needed to play tonight,” Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. “It was important that we got some experience playing against a zone because we’ll see it a lot this year. We
made a couple of threes early and got a little bit three-happy. So we had a rule in the second half that the ball had to touch the post. After that, we started to shoot it a little better. I was happy with our pressure. There were a lot of steals and a lot of turnovers.”
Johnson, the former Southern Cal signee, hit three consecutive treys in the first half that propelled the Tigers to an 18-4 lead from which the Blue Hose couldn’t overcome. Johnson finished with 12 points, while Bryan Narcisse, David Potter, Andre Young and Trevor Booker all got into the three-point act in the first half.
“If we continue to take high percentage threes, we should make those shots,” Purnell said. “We don’t have the range we did last year. Most of those shots are coming at the line. But we still have guys that can hit that shot.”
Eight Tigers scored from long range — the most since 1982-83 at Virginia, when the distance was shorter, at 17 feet, 9 inches, and Presbyterian Gregg Nibert said he doesn’t think the Tigers will miss Terrence Oglesby and K.C. Rivers.
“I know that K.C. and Terrence were great shooters, but they have Noel,
Milton Jennings, Tanner Smith, David Potter, and Andre Young that can all
shoot threes,” Nibert said. “We couldn’t stop everything and we were hoping they would miss some of those threes. Their season is very bright.”
Booker, the senior all-everything for the Tigers, struggled early, missing four of his first five shots, and finished 3-for-9 from the field for 11 points. However, he added eight rebounds and two blocks, and had a rim-rattling dunk in the first half that sent the Littlejohn crowd to its feet.
Purnell said the Tigers will need to establish an inside presence in order for the outside shooting to continue to pay dividends.
“We want some balance,” Purnell said. “When you do that, you’re thinking team. Tonight, we could get the three at any time since they were in a zone. We shot it better in the second half simply by letting the ball touch the post.”
The under-manned Blue Hose wilted under the Clemson pressure, committing 27 turnovers, 15 of which came in the first half.
“Coming into this game we wanted to be able to take care of the ball, but
their press is tough and they were able to score off of turnovers,” Nibert said. “They did a tremendous job with the pressure. They just keep coming at you. Oliver Purnell has done a great job here with this program. We made them miss four shots in the beginning, but they got the offensive rebounds. Then they came out in the second half strong and it became a blowout.”