Tigers use defense, Booker brothers, to bash Paladins

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – The Clemson Tigers showed the effects of a long exam week, struggling from both the free throw line and from 3-point range, so it was a good thing they had their defense and senior power forward Trevor Booker.

Clemson (8-2) held Southern Conference foe Furman (5-3) to just 29% shooting from the field and Trevor Booker scored a season-high 25 points as the 24th-ranked Tigers defeated the Paladins 82-53 at Littlejohn Coliseum Sunday afternoon.

Clemson used a 20-2 run midway through the second half, putting them up 66-33, to effectively shut the door on the Paladins, a run that helped offset Clemson’s 0-fo-11 effort from 3-point range[the first time Clemson has been held with a trey since 2005, a span of 162 games) and 12-for-25 showing at the free throw line.

“That is something that coach has been praising in practice this week is our defensive focus,” said Booker, who also finished with a game-high 14 rebounds and a career high in field goals made with 12.. “Like you saw, we held them to 29% percent shooting, and that is pretty good. And I told Devin before the game, that is was time for the Booker brothers to step up.”

Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said he was pleased with the overall performance, but did not like the way his team guarded Furman’s three-point shots. The Paladins were 8-for-21 from beyond the arc.

“I was disappointed in the way we guarded the three-point shot,” Purnell said. “That was our emphasis because we knew Furman would need threes to beat us. But I liked our energy and effort coming out of exams. That showed a great deal of mental toughness from our guys.”

The Paladins hit a couple of three-pointers early in the contest to keep it relatively close, and the biggest Tiger lead through the first 10 minutes was just five points, at 17-12. However, the rest of the half was all Tigers as Booker asserted his dominance, along with little brother Devin.

Devin Booker’s layup with just over six minutes remaining gave Clemson its first double-digit lead at 31-21, and then Clemson scored eight of the next 10 points to go up 39-23 after Trevor Booker’s steal and layup capped a furious 8-0 run fueled by the Clemson defense.

Devin Booker’s slam with just under a minute remaining gave the Tigers a 43-26 advantage, a lead they held at halftime.

The Tigers scored eight of the first 11 points in the second half, then used that huge 20-2 run to lengthen their advantage to 66-33. Milton Jennings had a steal and a dunk with 3:03 remaining that gave Clemson a 34-point lead, at 78-44, and from there the subs took over in closing out the win.

“As a team, we came out and played hard [in the second half],” Purnell said. “We started with energy and we finished with energy. That has only been a problem once that I can think of, and hopefully we learned that lesson against Illinois.”

The Tigers outscored the Paladins 64-14 in the paint, in part because of Trevor’s dominance, but also because of the play of Devin, who added 10 points in a strong showing.

“We got our chance to show off today,” Devin Booker said. “We fed off of him [Trevor] early, and then we played good defense in the second half that set the tone for us. We had some young players to step up come through. But I like being out on the court with Trevor – I know if I mess up, he will be right there for me.”

Purnell said he liked what he saw on Saturday from the Booker brothers.

“Devin’s been coming,” Purnell said. “He continues to improve. I would like to see him play more physical on the defensive end, by boxing out and hitting the glass. Trevor hit the boards hard today. He’s our emotional and energetic leader. We’ve fed off of him for the past couple of years.”

Furman head coach Jeff Jackson said the Tigers were just too much for the Paladins.

“We just did not do a good job,” Jackson said. “They did a great job today. The press got to us and they are just more physical than we are. Trevor [Booker] gave us issues inside. We just weren’t as tough with the ball as we wanted to be. We play games like this to help us improve. It is good to come into an environment like this and I hope that it prepares us for the next game.”

Clemson returns to action this Wednesday night as they travel to Greenville, N.C., for a 7:30 p.m. game at East Carolina.

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