With leading scorer Marcquise Reed sidelined due to injury, the Tigers struggled to consistently hit shots in the first half, especially from deep. Then, a Shelton Mitchell three, his only one of the game, for the first bucket of the second half ignited the Tigers offense.
Mitchell’s three, which was immediately followed by an Aamir Simms three, sparked an 18-0 run that forced the Buccaneers to call two timeouts before the under-16 in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
While Clemson’s run inevitably ended, the damage was done. What was an eight-point lead at the break had ballooned to a 53-27 stranglehold on the game. Clemson led by at least 22 points for the rest of the night.
While the Tigers red-hot second half shooting carried them, Elijah Thomas’ dominant interior play had the team up at the break. He hit double-digits 12 minutes into the game and finished the first half with 19 points on 7-10 from the field.
Thomas’s early impact was not limited to his scoring. He was a presence in every facet, entering halftime with seven rebounds, two steals and a block. By the time, the final buzzer sounded his stat line showed a team-high 25 points to go with four blocks and a career-high 14 rebounds. The best indicator of Thomas’ excellence was the disparity in interior scoring between the two teams. Thomas finished with 18 points in the paint, while CSU’s entire team managed only 12 in the game. Here’s a look at some of his stellar work:
Simms and Mitchell were the only other Clemson players to reach double-digit points, finishing with 15 and 14, respectively.
Although the Tigers won by 27, it was far from their best game. They finished with 22 turnovers and made just 6 of their 19 three-pointers, all of which came in the second half. Still, it’s good to see the defense have such a strong performance when the offense is struggling to hold onto the ball and hit shots.
Clemson’s defense made it hard for CSU to score the entire night. They locked up the paint, blocking 8 shots, and clogged passing lanes, registering 10 steals to just 2 CSU assists. Even when CSU was able to get a shot off, they couldn’t get them to fall. Clemson held CSU to 34 percent shooting overall and 30 percent from beyond the arc.
While it would’ve been nice to see the offense run a bit smoother without Reed, there isn’t much to pick apart from this result. Clemson was facing an inferior team at home and should’ve won big. They did just that, giving Brad Brownell his 157th win, the second most in Clemson history.