Nov. 11, 2011
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By Will Vandervort, IPTAY Media
CLEMSON, SC — Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell probably could have gone without his team losing a 13-point lead just before the half in the season-opener Friday night, but he understands it was probably good to face a little adversity as well.
Considering the way his young basketball team responded to the lesson made it even better as the Tigers forced six turnovers in the first four minutes after the break, using a 7-0 run to spark a 65-44 victory over Gardner-Webb at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“We needed to face a little adversity and we got some,” Brownell said. “I think our older players really responded, and defensively we played tremendous in the second half.”
Those older players were Andre Young, Tanner Smith and Milton Jennings as Clemson took a 29-29 tie at the break and quickly turned the game into a 14-point lead before the 10-minute mark of the second half.
As expected, it was Young and Smith that got things going in the second stanza. Young first hit a jump shot and then drained a three-pointer from the wing, while Smith cleaned up the boards and hit a streaking Jennings under the basket to set the tone for the rest of the game. Those seven straight points, coupled with more intensity on the defensive end, all but did Gardner-Webb in.
“Coach really challenged us at halftime as a team,” Young said. “We let up on that 13-point lead and it was just a matter of us responding and I think we did a pretty good job of coming out and being focused with a good defensive mindset.
“Our defense led to easy offense.”
Young definitely made it look easy. He scored a game-high 19 points on 7 of 9 shooting, including a 3-for-4 night from behind the arc.
“I didn’t feel like I had to be an aggressive scorer because we have a lot of capable guys on this team,” he said. “I just had my opportunities and my teammates did a really good job of getting me the ball where I’m comfortable. It was just a matter of me knocking down shots.”
While Young was knocking down shots, Smith, the other senior, was doing everything else. Not happy with the fact he committed five turnovers, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard made up for it with a career-high 14 rebounds to go along with six points, eight assists, five steals and two blocked shots.
“I filled up the turnovers as well,” Smith said. “It was good, I was able to come back and do what I needed to do in order for our team to win. That’s kind of what it is all about this year. Whatever this team needs me to do this year; I’m going to do it.”
Clemson (1-0) received 10 points from Jennings and 11 points from freshman guard T.J. Sapp. The most important number on Sapp’s stat line was that he turned the basketball over just once in 30 minutes of action.
As for losing the 13-point lead in the first half, Smith says that shows a sign of some of the struggles this year’s team will have early in the year as they try to incorporate the new players in with the old.
“We are not perfect yet,” Smith said. “Especially with a team like (Gardner-Webb), you are not going to come in and blow them out. We knew that coming in. But what we have to know is that we are not a team that can have let-ups.
“We saw that in that two or three minute stretch. They piled it on quickly. The teams we play are going to be able to do the same things so we really have to lock in mentally for 40 minutes.”
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