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Clemson edges St. Peter’s 65-60

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Elijah Thomas’ double-double helped the Tigers outlast the Peacocks.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Auburn vs Clemson
Elijah Thomas posted an efficient 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Tigers.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Thomas spent the first 11 minutes of the game on the bench for missing a team meeting, but his 17 points and 12 rebounds once he entered helped Clemson outlast St. Peter’s 65-60.

Clemson struggled mightily on the offensive end without Thomas and trailed 15-11 before he came in the game.

Marcquise Reed single-handedly carried the offense early to keep the Tigers in the game. Reed led the team with 21 points but went down with a scary-looking injury in the final minute.

St. Peter’s took advantage of Clemson’s slow start by shooting 64 percent from three-point range in the first half and were tied with the Tigers at halftime.

Clemson was unable to pull away in the second half, however, and fans had to strap in for a back-and-forth struggle with the Peacocks for the duration of the game.

The score was tied at 56 with just over two minutes left when Shelton Mitchell’s layup gave the Tigers a lead they would not relinquish. Clyde Trapp hit an acrobatic shot in the paint with 39 seconds left, and Clemson made four free throws in the final 21 seconds to finally pull out the much-needed win.

Davauhnte Turner led St. Peter’s with 16 points, while Cameron Jones and Dallas Watson chipped in 13 apiece.

Shelton Mitchell added 15 for the Tigers, who face No. 22 Mississippi State in a neutral-site game on Saturday.

TAKEAWAYS:

  • Reed’s injury had the same vibe as Donte Grantham’s a season ago, and we will have to hope for the best once he has an MRI. Realistically, this team is in serious trouble if he is out for the season or even an extended period of time.
  • This team is playing with a palpable lack of energy and desire right now. I’ll side with the players and coaches when fans don’t show up for/actively participate in a game like Nebraska, but you have to be ready to create your own energy when a team like St. Peter’s comes to your building. They did nothing of the sort. It’s just hard to watch the way this team is playing after watching them play with such a big chip on their shoulder all of last season. Thomas and Simms are the closest thing to vocal leaders this team has but probably aren’t great at it, and it’s hard to expect quiet guys like Reed and Mitchell to suddenly become the type to verbally motivate their teammates. But something has to change. I’m not a big “WHY DOESN’T THE COACH JUST MOTIVATE THE PLAYERS???” guy, but it’s probably time for Brownell to have some sort of coming to Jesus with the team.
  • Not that the staff is absolved of all blame. This team has looked sloppy and lost on offense recently, and things really need to improve on that end of the court as ACC play draws near.
  • Aamir Simms has disappeared. He came out of the gate in the first couple games looking like he was prepared to take the big step we were all hoping for, but he has struggled mightily since then and now can’t buy a bucket. He has to get in gear if this team is going to have any long-term success.
  • Shelton Mitchell has scored some, but he is not the point guard this team needs him to be right now. He had zero assists tonight — unacceptable for a starting point guard. He stirred the drink for Clemson at a high level last season, and the Tigers need him return to form quickly. He is not helping the offensive stagnancy.
  • Trapp was a bright spot tonight. He is playing a bit more confidently and attacking the glass and working hard on defense. Really want to see him continue to develop.
  • Mitchell was the only Clemson player to make a three-pointer tonight. The team shot 2 of 14 from deep. Three-point shooting is not supposed to be an especially strong suit for this group, but they have to be better than that. The disparity from deep is what kept St. Peter’s in the game.
  • This team has talent, but it’s not the level and depth of talent where you can just show up and whip people without trying. They need to play well to win, and playing poorly tonight almost cost them in a game they couldn’t afford to lose. I hate playing the transitive property game, but Auburn beat St. Peter’s by FIFTY a week ago. A.K.A. Clemson has a long way to go if it’s going to live up to the promise we hoped this season would have.
  • All those things said, a win is a win, and I’m never too proud to take one. Clemson has a great opportunity in front of it this Saturday against Mississippi State. It was a neutral-site win over Florida last year that gave that team confidence and got things headed in the right direction. Maybe this weekend’s game can be that kind of turning point.