The Clemson basketball season got underway Friday night against the Georgia Bulldogs. It was the second game of the home-and-home series that saw Clemson blown out in Stegeman Coliseum last year. Things got off to a better start this time.
With the recent knee injury to PG Shelton Mitchell (2-4 weeks), Avry Holmes moved to PG and Gabe DeVoe started at SG. They didn’t miss a beat. The Tigers started quickly, relying on strong man-to-man defense to build a 21-9 lead at the nine minute mark.
From there the game evened out, with the Tigers defending but not extending their lead to put the game away. Invariably, the Tigers’ post-players got in foul trouble. Sidy Djitte picked up a foul. Blossomgame followed with two quick fouls. Then Robertin committed two fouls in under a minute. Djitte came back in the game only to commit another quick foul. With Elijah Thomas not eligible until the Spring following his transfer, the Tigers were forced to play a very small lineup.
The Tigers went with Blossomgame and Grantham in the post. The duo showed some encouraging toughness playing out of position. While the lead dwindled to seven points, they bought themselves enough time to bring their Centers back into the game. They’d be forced to utilize this very small lineup a few times in the second half, but each time, they answered the call and held the lead, a very encouraging sign moving forward.
The Tigers continued to hold their lead until mid-way through the second half when UGA went on their big run. With just under 10 minutes, the Bulldogs had cut the lead to just three points, seizing the momentum. That’s when the Tigers only transfer player that is both healthy and eligible, Marcquise Reed, made some game changing plays. First a two-point field goal. On the very next possession he stole the ball, went down, and scored. Moments later he hit a three-pointer. His personal 7-0 run extended the Tigers lead back to 10 and ended the scare.
The Bulldogs would attempt to make one last run cutting the lead to seven with five minutes to play. Once again, the Tigers demonstrated that they have more offensive firepower than previous Brownell teams. As they had done all night, the Tigers responded to the run with some offense of their own. A 9-3 run, which was capped off by an ill-advised (but beautiful) three-pointer from Marcquise Reed (he should have restarted the offense and burned clock), extended the Tiger lead back to 13 and effectively ended the game.
Marcquise Reed had a night to remember in his Tiger debut. Coming off the bench, Reed led the Tigers in scoring with 19 points (9 in the first half, 10 in the second half including the dagger three-pointer). We was an efficient 5-11 overall while going 3-3 from three and 6-6 from the free throw line. Meanwhile, he played the caliber of defense he’ll need to exhibit to stay on the court. While we’ll try to be careful about putting too much stock into one game, it’s hard not to be encouraged. He should be one of the better scorers coming off any bench in the ACC. He’ll get plenty of playing time.
Grantham struggled from three, finishing 0-6, yet there were some positive signs. He showed toughness when forced to play in the post and collected 7 rebounds. Additionally, he created his own shot on multiple occasions going 4-7 inside the arc. Hopefully we continue to see him take more shots from two than three (i.e., this continues he is in his usual SF spot).
Gabe DeVoe and Avry Holmes both played well. DeVoe finished with 15 points on .500 shooting. He too was able to create his own shots, looking improved from the player who relied heavily on three-point shooting in the past (103 three-point attempts to just 64 two-point attempts last season). Holmes collected 10 points while playing some strong defense.
Djitte, played well in limited minutes collecting 9 rebounds, protecting the rim, and scoring a few buckets following offensive rebounds. Robertin also protected the rim well, but is an absolute hacker. The duo combined for 9 fouls in limited minutes. Due to that limitation, the Tigers will likely have to rely on small lineups a handful of times in non-conference play. Getting Thomas mid-season will be a nice boost of depth.
This is a big win for a program that tends to get off to rotten starts and dig themselves a hole. In our season preview, we warned of another slow start as the Tigers play without Mitchell, Thomas, and Hudson. Despite the lack of depth, the Clemson looked very good in game one as they begin their journey to end the Tigers NCAA drought.