The Clemson Tigers traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the Big10 vs ACC Challenge and picked up a vital road win over the Buckeyes.
I’m not going to lie. The first quarter was uninspiring. Clemson came out flat, Ohio State came out hot, and while Clemson managed to right the ship midway through the 1st half, they could never get over the hump.
Every time Clemson made a run to cut the score to one or two possessions, they committed a careless turn over, took a bad shot, or Ohio State drilled a 3 to push the lead back out. It just felt like it was going to be one of those games for the Tigers.
Elijah Thomas was M.I.A. in the first half, going 0-0 for 0 points after putting up career numbers and being a focal point of the offense against Texas Southern. Grantham, other than a few brief flashes, was mostly invisible. Gabe Devoe was taking bad shots.
The offense was stagnant in the half court, and the defense was allowing a generally poor shooting Ohio State to take uncontested 3’s. It wasn’t looking good at all.
Luckily, Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise were able to generate enough offense, mainly in transition, to keep the Tigers close. Clemson entered the dressing room down 37-30.
The Tigers started the 2nd half much like they started the game, flat and uninspired. It looked the the Buckeyes were going to try and run the Tigers out of the building.
Fortunately, the veteran Tigers were able to pull themselves together. They started pounding the ball into Elijah Thomas, and the big man responded with 11 2nd half points. With Thomas established in the post, the Clemson guards suddenly found more space on the perimeter. Shots that were tightly contested in the 1st half opened up in the 2nd half.
Shelton Mitchell put on a masterful performance at the point, either getting to the basket, or driving and kicking to an en fuego Marcquise Reed for open 3’s. With Reed and Mitchell stretching out the defense, Grantham found room to operate on the baseline with backdoor cuts and strong finishes at the rim.
The defense for the Tigers also picked up in the 2nd half. The Tigers pressured the ball and got into passing lanes. Elijah Thomas patrolled the paint blocking shots. The hot shooting Ohio State team from the 1st half found its self taking contested 3’s and struggling to find open shots in the 2nd half.
The Tigers began pulling away midway through the 2nd half, and never allowed Ohio State to regain the lead, matching every Buckeye run with a run of their own. The Tigers looked calm under pressure and executed well down the stretch, a beautiful sight for Tiger fans all to familiar with late game collapses.
The 2nd half of this game was the best I’ve seen Clemson look all season. They put up an incredible 49 points and limited Ohio State to 28 points. The offense and defense both clicked at the same time and the Tigers looked like a tournament team.
In the end, the Tigers went on the road and picked up an important win. Road wins are always at a premium for Clemson, and even though I don’t think Ohio State is a particularly good team this year, they will at least provide a small bump to the Clemson resume.
Beyond the obvious tangible benefits of the the win, the Tigers proved they could go on the road, in a hostile environment, and come home with the victory. A nice shot of confidence early in the season is just what Clemson needs.