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Clemson wins ACC opener against NC State

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The Clemson defense had a coming out party against one of the country’s best offensive units.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Clemson Tigers (12-1, 1-0) defense continued a stretch of stellar player, holding NC State, one on the nation’s top offenses (10-4, 0-1), in check during its 78-62 win over the Wolfpack.

Both teams struggled to score in the game’s opening minutes, but it was Clemson, plagued by turnovers and poor shooting, who found itself behind 10 minutes into the game. Down 16-10, the Tigers began to get into a rhythm; Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe tied the game at 16 with back to back threes.

From there, Clemson and NC State battled back and forth over the next five minutes, until the Wolfpack’s offense was locked down. The normally explosive NC State squad went without a bucket from the field for the final five minutes of the half.

The Tigers capitalized, ending the half on a 13-2 run punctuated by a buzzer-beating putback by Grantham.

Grantham and DeVoe were instrumental in helping keep Clemson in the game while the offense struggled. Both players finished the first half with nine points and six rebounds on a combined 6-of-13 from the field. As a team, Clemson made just 12 of their 35 attempts in the half.

Meanwhile, NC State shot an abysmal 27.3 percent and leading scorer Allerik Freeman was 2-of-9 for the field at the break.

Clemson picked up right where it left off in the second half, remaining largely in control for the game’s final 20 minutes. The Wolfpack cut Clemson’s lead to as little as six early in the second, but the Tigers were never truly threatened. Clemson’s lead grew as large as 21.

The Tigers managed to hold the Wolfpack to 35 percent shooting from the field and 23 percent from deep. NC State scored over 20 points less than their per-game average this season in the loss. Clemson’s defense was so successful in part because of its ability to take NC State out of rhythm. They did this by tallying 10 blocks, including six from Elijah Thomas, and forcing 14 turnovers.

In addition to the stellar defense, Clemson shook off the slow start to play a good offensive game too. Although only six players scored in the game for Clemson, five of them were in double digits. Leading the Tigers offense was Marcquise Reed, with 16, followed by DeVoe and Shelton Mitchell with 15 and 14, respectively. Grantham added in 13 points and Thomas had another double-double, finishing with 10 boards and points. Mark Donnal also scored 8 points.

Despite being outrebounded by a few boards, Clemson dominated the interior, outscoring NC State 42-22 in the paint during the win.

Next up, the Tigers continue ACC play against Boston College on the road once 2018 rolls around.