The Clemson Tigers (4-1, 0-1 ACC) ended their five game home stand with a convincing 36 point victory (87-51) against the Alabama A&M Bulldogs (0-5) for their fourth win in a row on Thursday night. Buoyed by a 23-0 run over a six minute stretch in the first half, the Tigers made a statement early and the game never got close to competitive. Tevin Mack led the way for the Tigers early with 14 first half points and 16 points for the game on 6/9 shooting from the field on the night. Al-Amir Dawes had a career night with 19 points and 5 rebounds. The most surprising and pleasant contribution came from Sophomore center, Trey Jemison. He ended the night with career highs in points (10), rebounds (5), and blocks (4) and ended the night with just 1 foul in more than 15 minutes of playing time. Two players for Clemson also scored their first career points at the D1 level on Thursday. Paul Grinde, a graduate transfer from DIII Vassar College, and team manager, Wells Hoag, both got into the scoresheet with 6 and 5 points respectively.
The Tigers started the game off quickly with a 3-pointer from Tevin Mack and worked the lead to eight points before Alabama A&M were able to get the first basket of their own. The Bulldogs clawed back to make it 8-5 and the teams traded baskets before Clemson went on an extended 23-0 run over the middle of the first period. Alabama A&M struggled to hold onto the ball, throwing several wild passes under the extended pressure on the perimeter from the Clemson defenders. The Tigers continued to pour it on throughout the half and Coach Brad Brownell was able to get eight players into the game in the first half. Each of the eight scored at least three points for Clemson in the half while Alabama A&M struggled to put up any points and put up just 19 total. The Tigers finished the half with 54 points, the most in a first half in the Brad Brownell era. The team’s hot shooting (10-17 from 3-point range) and high margin on turnovers (4 turnovers for Clemson to 13 for Alabama A&M) were the biggest reasons for the giant margin in the first half.
The second period started with a Clemson basket as Al-Amir Dawes made a nice turnaround shot from about 10 feet to start the half. It seemed as though the game would get even more lopsided, but the Bulldogs had other plans. Alabama A&M shot 6-11 from 3-point range in the second half, led by Junior guard, Brandon Miller, who was 5-10 from three on the night and led the way for Alabama A&M with 17 points. Despite the hot shooting, A&M never got the score closer than 29 points and Brad Brownell was able to empty his bench, mimicking his football counterpart and playing every player available to him. The Tigers hardly extended their lead in the second half (outscored A&M 33-32 in the half) but were able to get a lot of playing time for the end of the bench and players who don’t normally get to see the court. Sloppy defense in the second half gave Alabama A&M a few more baskets than the Tigers would have liked (32 points in the half), but in the end it didn’t have an effect on the outcome of the game.
For a team projected to finish toward the bottom of the ACC, the Tigers have looked feisty early in the year. A 35+ point victory over a vastly inferior opponent isn’t anything from which to project a season’s results, but Clemson seems to be jelling nicely and many of the new faces in town are going to be major contributors. If they can squash the injury bug, returns from Clyde Trapp, Jonathan Baehre and Alex Hemenway will provide even more depth to a team that’s getting significant minutes from nine players already this season. Coach Brownell and company face their next test against TCU at the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas on Sunday. This will be a good challenge for a Tiger team that hasn’t faced a talented team since Virginia Tech in the opener. TCU is projected to win in a close contest (68-64 according to KenPom.com), so it should be a nice test for the Tigers. Clemson will follow that up with a matchup against either the University of Colorado or the University of Wyoming on Tuesday.