On Thursday night, the Clemson Tigers (1-1, 0-1 ACC) opened their out-of-conference schedule for the 2019-20 season against the Presbyterian College Blue Hose (0-1). Things went very differently from their disappointing opening loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies on Tuesday. The Tigers came out quickly and took advantage of Presbyterian’s 15 first half turnovers. Led by John Newman III’s 16 points, Tevin Mack’s 14 and 13 each from Curran Scott and Chase Hunter, Clemson comfortably cruised to a 79-45 victory for their first win of the season. The team looked much better than against Virginia Tech both defensively and from 3-point range on the night (21 Turnovers forced, 14-34 from three) against an overwhelmed Presbyterian team. It was truly a team effort for a balanced and convincing blowout win.
Coach Brad Brownell used the lopsided game to empty his bench, playing all 13 players that were available for the evening. Brownell went deep into his bench early in the night, playing everyone but the two walk-ons in the first half. With eight new players joining the roster this season, the coaching staff has some work to do to help the team assimilate, but this game was a great start. A passive and scoreless night from Aamir Simms offensively (0 Points, 8 rebounds, 0-4 from the field) was easily overcome by getting 32 bench points and major contributions from the other starters.
Throughout the first half, the Tigers shot the ball well from deep (8-17 from 3) and defended aggressively, especially around the perimeter. The Blue Hose were only able to scrape together 21 points in the first half. They ended the first half with nearly as many turnovers (15) as points (21). Tevin Mack, especially, was a pest defensively, causing several of the Presbyterian turnovers and adding six points in the first period. The only starter who failed to score in the first half for the Tigers was Simms. Despite his scoreless half, he played well, grabbing 6 first half rebounds and making smart plays distributing the ball to teammates.
The bench contributed more in the 1st half than all of last game with 14 points, led by Scott’s 11. An 8-0 run to end the half extended the lead to 22 and was punctuated emphatically by John Newman III’s high flying slam dunk as time expired. The Tigers never looked back.
The second half was more of the same for Clemson. Three triples to start the period, extended the lead to 52-23 and caused another quick timeout from Presbyterian’s first-time head coach, Quinton Ferrell. The Blue Hose fought valiantly, hitting a few 3-pointers of their own in the second half, but they failed to ever make a dent in the Tiger’s lead. Led by Sophomore Guard, Chris Martin, with 11 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, Presbyterian had no other players crack double digits.
Major contributions from the three freshmen, Al-Amir Dawes, Alex Hemenway and Hunter (25 points combined) were somewhat overshadowed by Hemenway’s exit on crutches after a left leg injury with about ten minutes remaining in the game.
The game was never close the stretch and Coach Brownell emptied the bench with about three minutes left to play. Walk-on Parker Fox scored his first basket of the season to uproarious applause from his teammates on the bench with 30 seconds remaining to wrap up the scoring for the Tigers.
A slew of offseason injuries, including expected major contributors Clyde Trapp Jr. and Jonathan Baehre, have lowered expectations for this Tigers team (projected 11th in the ACC). If the freshmen and transfers can find their roles on and off the court, this team could be a lot of fun to watch. They’re playing faster than seasons past and shooting a higher percentage of 3-pointers as well (more than 50% of the shots on the night). An uneven matchup against Presbyterian won’t be predictive for the season, but it was an encouraging sign after a close game squandered against Virginia Tech earlier in the week. The Tigers play next against the Colgate University Raiders on Sunday.