MINNEAPOLIS — Clemson held a halftime lead at Minnesota in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Monday, but was unable to hang on in the second half and the Golden Gophers rallied for an 89-83 win in Williams Arena. The Tigers fell to 4-2 on the season, while Minnesota improved to 5-2.
Jordan Roper provided the Tigers with a career-high 25 points, and Jaron Blossomgame added a season-best 24. But it was not enough, as the Gophers hit 24-30 from the free throw line and shot 53 percent from the floor. Clemson shot 54 percent and hit 14 three-pointers, its most under head coach Brad Brownell. It was the second time this season Clemson made a double digit total from long range, but Minnesota’s +11 rebound advantage in the second half proved to be a turning point for the Golden Gophers.
It couldn’t have started much better for the Tigers, who hit nine of their first 12 shots offensively to build a 22-14 advantage. Blossomgame and Roper did the bulk of the scoring, but the basketball was shared well in the opening half. Avry Holmes and Roper combined for seven assists as the Tiger cushion grew to as much as 10 after Holmes buried a deep wing three in front of Gophers coach Richard Pitino.
Roper finished the half strong after Minnesota had a 9-0 run to pull within a point. First, he took a kickout from senior Landry Nnoko for a corner three and followed with a tip-in as time expired. Clemson led it 42-36 at intermission. It was the most points on an opponent’s home court in a half since the Tigers also posted 42 at Wake Forest in a 2012 win.
Minnesota took a pair of two-point leads after an 11-4 run to start the second half, but Roper again offered an answer with a three from the wing. Donte Grantham followed a possession later with one, his first score of the game. That gave the Tigers a 54-50 lead. But Minnesota came right back and took a 62-56 lead as fouls began to mount up on the Tigers.
Holmes hit a huge three from the top of the key that pulled the Tigers within two at 67-65. But that was as close as Clemson would get, as the Gophers converted from the charity stripe and freshman Jordan Murphy’s 24-point, 10-rebound performance was too much to overcome.
The Tigers face a short turnaround, as they play USC Upstate in Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Wednesday, December 2 at 7 p.m.