Clemson entered the game ranked 93rd in the KenPom rankings. High Point entered ranked 176th, making them the second best opponent Clemson has faced - with LSU being the best. The High Point Panthers are members of the Big South, the same conference as Winthrop and Gardner Webb. Clemson needed this win to avoid dropping to 0-3 against the conference.
High Point does not have enough size in the post to compete with major programs, or at least they shouldn't. Their tallest major contributor is 6'7". Clemson out-rebounded the Panthers 41-34. As you'd probably expect, the size difference was most evident with the big men. Landry Nnoko and Jaron Blossomgame each had 13 rebounds and two blocks. As a team, Clemson had five swats. The size advantage was likely the key that put them over the top in capturing the three point win.
The game started as a defensive struggle. It took nearly three minutes for either team to crack the scoreboard. At the 8:33 mark of the first half, it was just 11-7. At that point, the game opened up as Clemson went on a 10-2 run and held a commanding 21-9 with 6:35 remaining in the first half. High Point inched a bit closer and ended the half trailing the Tigers 16-26.
Unfortunately, Clemson came out of the half flat. It's likely they all were trying to catch up on homework or were watching the end of Titanic. I don't know exactly what it was, but the second half was not pretty. They squandered their ten point lead in the first seven minutes, getting outscored 10-20 to knot the score at 36.
From there, Clemson made some runs, but High Point always countered. Down the stretch, it was Jaron Blossomgame who came up with the big plays. Clinging to a two point lead, he came up with a key rebound to end a defensive stand with less than two minutes to go. After an unsuccessful possession, he came up with another big rebound. He finished with 14 points and was an uncharacteristically solid 6-7 from the line. Clemson only scored seven in the final 8 minutes, but their defense did enough to stave off their third devastating loss.
One development that wasn't helpful, was Rod Hall exiting after just a minute of play. Jordan Roper filled in at point guard. He finished just 1-9. Even with the injury and Ropers cold hand, Gabe DeVoe didn't see the court.
Clemson's Rod Hall twisted an ankle early in their game vs High Point. Hasn't returned since.— Jon Pence (@scacchoops) November 29, 2014
One bench player who make some big shots was Patrick Rooks. Rooks had the firs big game of his career going 3-5 from three and finishing with 11 points.
Donte Grantham came up with some big baskets, especially early and finished with 11 points. He has been a major bright spot on a team that is still searching for an offensive identity (besides mediocre).
Nnoko was 5-10 with 10 points. It wasn't a bad day, but I was hoping to see a little more offensive dominance against smaller teams early in the year from Nnoko. It's going to get a lot tougher for him down the road. High Point did a good job denying post entry passes and created some turnovers off the sloppy ones. Clemson finished with 14 turnovers, two more than High Point.
Overall, it was good to escape with a win. We've learned not to take any of these early games for granted. Hopefully Rod Hall will be back on Monday for the Rutgers game. KenPom is currently (prior to statistics from this came being factored in) giving Clemson an 82% chance to win that game, but without Hall, I don't know if they can pull off that win. We're lucky to get this win without Hall and we won't complain about it being close, but we'll need to get him back and start being more careful with the ball moving forward. With another win in the bag, we now turn our attention to the Palmetto Bowl.