When a player is shooting the ball exceptionally well, there is a shot that is known in the basketball community as the “heat check”. To put it simply, it comes down to I’m going to throw the ball up there because everything that is leaving my hand is going in the basket. It is a special moment for a player, and shows that they are engaged in the game. As big of an impact as a heat check can have on a team’s performance, imagine what would happen if you had 3 of them on the court at the same time? That is exactly what Clemson turned out on Saturday afternoon as they used a 45.0% shooting effort and 13 made 3-pointers to route the Mercer Bears by a final score of 90-47.
The Tigers were led by Junior Donte Grantham who finished with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and added four 3-pointers on the contest. Grantham also pulled down 6 rebounds and added 2 assists to his full stat line. Clemson managed to finish with 5 players in double figures with Blossomgame (16) Mitchell (13) Holmes (10) and DeVoe (13) all joining in on the scoring action as Clemson made 13 of its 28 3 point attempts in the rout.
Absolutely nothing went right for Mercer today due to the stingy Tiger defense. Ria’n Holland finished with a team high 12-points (a season low for him) and did manage to knock down four 3-pointers of his own, but nobody else from Mercer came close to double figures as the Bears went on frequent and long scoring droughts when Holland couldn’t put the ball in the basket.
In recent program history, free throw shooting has been the notable low point for the Tigers. Clemson has managed to turn this trend in the right direction, but the less talked about issue with the Tiger basketball team has been their performance against the zone defense. Clemson would be tested as Mercer opened the game in a 2-3 zone. Clemson answered the question early as they challenged the zone pressure with a barrage of 3-pointers to take the early lead, with 2 each from Donte Grantham and Avry Holmes, Clemson started the game 5-of-7 from behind the arc spurring them to an early 21-11 lead.
Mercer would answer back with their leading scorer, Ria’n Hollins as he would score Mercers first 6-points with long 3-pointers and would hit his first three attempts. The problem with the Mercer offense early on was their dependence on the long-range shot. Mercer would score all of their baskets from behind the arc before Darius Roy managed to score the Bears first 2-point field goal, with over 10 minutes of game time having elapsed.
With Ria’n Hollins coming back off the bench, Avry Holmes had decided that enough was enough from the Junior leading scorer for the Bears. Playing lock-down defense, Clemson would begin to extend their lead. And extend. And extend. The normally sure handed Bears didn’t help their own cause. Averaging just only 11 turnovers per game, Mercer coughed up the ball 13 times in the first half, and Jaron Blossomgame started to assert himself, scoring 6 straight points. Mercer would reach double bonus in fouls early on, and Clemson would take 18 free throws in the first half, and converting 14 of them. Clemson would finish the half on a 20-5 run and the rout was on as Clemson took a 49-25 lead into the locker room with 4 scorers already in double figures while Mercer managed only 7 points in the last 8 minutes of the first half due to the Tiger defense.
The second half began with the Tigers picking up right where they left off. Mercer extended their zone to three-quarter court, and the Tigers answered by pounding the ball inside. Early on, Donte Grantham started to take over. Grantham scored 5 consecutive points early following another made 3-pointer with a monstrous baseline jam in his finest performance of the season.
The teams would trade baskets for a majority of the beginning of the second half, but a Gabe DeVoe 3-pointer would stretch the lead to 30-points and suck the life out of the Mercer team that was looking to make a bit of a run. Clemson would use a 16-0 scoring run and Mercer wouldn’t hit a field goal in more than 6 minutes as Clemson would run away and hide with a final score of 90-47.
Defense was the story of the day for the Tigers. Clemson’s suffocating man-to-man defense held Mercer to 30.4% shooting from the field, and led to two separate scoring droughts which spanned over 10 minutes of game time. Clemson outrebounded the Bears 44-35 and forced 18 turnovers against a team that averages 11 per game.
The performances of Donte Grantham and Shelton Mitchell deserve special mention today. Grantham finally put together the all-around performance that we have been looking for him, as he effectively used his shot-fake and dribble-drive technique on the baseline to put together a complete performance. Mitchell looked like the point guard that Brad Brownell has been telling us about. Not only did he show his range with two made 3-point field goals, but distributed 5 assists and grabbed a share of the team high in rebounds with 7. Mitchell was effective in driving the lane, and distributing to perimeter players after drawing multiple defenders in the paint giving the hot shooting Tigers more time to spot up their three point attempts.
Clemson will return to the hardwood Tuesday night as they take on the South Carolina State Bulldogs at 7:00pm in Littlejohn Coliseum. Be sure to stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for more Clemson Basketball coverage.