Tigers defeat Presbyterian 77-44 in season opener

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Milton Jennings scored 15 points and Devin Booker and Jordan Roper added 11 points apiece as Clemson defeated Presbyterian 77-44 in front of a sparse crowd in the season opener at Littlejohn Coliseum Monday night.

Jennings also added a game-high five rebounds while Booker added four before both players left the floor a little over halfway through the second half.

“It was a good opening performance by our guys,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “ I was really pleased with the way we played defensively. We’ve done a good job so far in all of our games of guarding and need to continue to do that to be successful. I thought we showed pretty good patience against the zone. We obviously played against a lot of zone tonight and didn’t turn the ball over, which was really good offensively to have big assists and low turnovers. So, I was pleased with our opening performance. We have a lot of work to do moving forward, though.”

Clemson shot 30-for-56 from the floor (53.6%) for the game, including 7-of-18 from 3-point range. The Tigers limited Presbyterian to just 16-for-53 (30.2%) from the floor.

Brownell said he challenged his defense to play good defense on each possession.

“Not to play the scoreboard, but to play possessions,” Brownell said when he was asked about his defensive plan. “We want to get this mentality that we want to compete. I think the guys did a pretty good job of that tonight and have done a good job of trying to work hard against teams that have very good scorers, like (Khalid) Mutakabbir for Presbyterian. We made it hard for him to have a good night, which was good for our attention to detail and scouting. I believe our guys played well for our first game.”

T.J. Sapp got things started with a 3-pointer on the game’s first possession, but the Tigers wouldn’t score again for almost two minute, until Bernard Sullivan took a pass from Devin Booker and scored for a 5-0 lead.

The Blue Hose didn’t score their first points until the 15:27 mark – cutting Clemson’s lead to 7-2 – but the Tigers went on a 20-5 run and getting their biggest lead of the first half at 27-7 with just 6:39 remaining in the first half.

The Blue Hose finally hit a few shots to close to within 36-21, but Milton Jennings hit a jumper at the buzzer that gave the Tigers a 38-21 lead.

The Tigers started off the second half with a 9-0 run. The run started on two layups by Jennings and ended with a 3-pointer by K.J. McDaniels that extended the Tiger lead to 47-21 at the 17:49 mark of the second half.

McDaniels hit a 3-pointer to put the Tigers up by 30 at 55-25 with just under 15 minutes remaining, but the Blue Hose put together three solid possessions and ended an 11-4 run when Khalid Mutakabbir hit a 3-pointer to make it 59-36 Clemson with 10:33 left on the game clock.

Brownell called timeout and Rod Hall hit a runner to make it 61-36, Mutakabbir missed a trey and the outlet pass went to Booker, who beat the defense down the floor for a dunk that made it 63-36 with just 52 seconds elapsed since the timeout.

At that point, Brownell let many of the younger players get time on the floor, the highlight being a McDaniel’s slam after a move down the baseline that gave Clemson a 28-point lead. A few minutes later, Jordan Roper had a breakaway slam that put the Tigers up 76-44 with just under three minutes remaining.

Presbyterian head coach Gregg Nibert said his team was out of the competition early.

“I told our guys, for us, the first four minutes is where we really lost the game, especially our start. Clemson did a tremendous job defensively on our perimeter,” Nibert said. “Jordan Downey went 1-for-11, Austin Anderson was 2-for-9, and Khalid (Mutakabbir), our best player, went 1-for-9. They did a tremendous job on our perimeter. Because they do play great defense, we panicked. In the first four minutes, we took three or four quick, awful shots. Then we took three shots that were wide open that we missed. We got off to a terrible start. We regrouped.

“You have to be really patient against Clemson. They can play defense. We regrouped there a little bit, but we were down 17. We knew we were going to have to have a great start to the second half. Then, obviously, (Milton) Jennings hit a shot before the half and they hit some more shots. They have a heck of a defensive team, and that’s why you’d better run your offense and do a good job. Their perimeter defense did a tremendous job on our offense.”

Clemson travels to Furman Friday night for a 7 p.m. tipoff in Timmons Arena.

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