December 29, 1998
By PETE IACOBELLI AP Sports Writer
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) – Illinois’ Arias Davis finally found his shot and his confidence.
Davis, who had scored 16 points all season, hit for a career-high 20 points and Illinois took out No. 14 Clemson 67-50 on Tuesday night.
Davis is what coaches like to call a pure shooter, able to score from anywhere any time. But the senior reserve lost his stroke in the season opener after an 0-for-6 performance against Wake Forest last month.
“It was hard because every time I shot, I was thinking about it going in. Now, I’m just naturally shooting the ball without even thinking about it,” he said.
The Tigers (11-2) had won eight straight, but made only one of 12 shots to start the second half as the Illini (8-4) turned a close game into a romp with a 15-3 run.
Clemson finished 16-of-56 (28.6 percent) for a season low in points.
“Tonight it was a very, very weak shooting performance,” coach Larry Shyatt said. “We’ve said for months now that we are a team that is more than capable of that. And if we are good and continue to improve, we’ve got to know that and be prepared for it.”
Illinois was supposed to be a sluggish, inexperienced team with five new starters from last year and grueling losses at Kansas and Missouri in the past 10 days.
Davis, averaging less than 3 points a game, got his team out of an early jam with his long-range accuracy.
His first 3-pointer broke a seven-minute scoring drought during which the Illini missed 10 straight shots. His second gave Illinois its first lead at 14-13, and his third made it 20-15.
Davis’ final 3-pointer came with 4:03 remaining. His previous scoring high was 14 points against St. John’s in 1997.
“He was sparking up everyone,” said Cory Bradford, Illinois’ leading scorer who had half his 16 points in the deciding run. “AD came off the bench to play some great minutes and put up some numbers like that for us.”
Davis said his confidence has been gradually coming back through practice. Coach Lon Kruger kept asking him to shoot and Davis finally felt pretty good saying “Yes.”
“It won’t matter if I come out and go 0-for-8 next game, my mental attitude is back,” he said.
Terrell McIntyre led Clemson with 15 points, but was just 5-of-17 from the field. His seven turnovers were the senior’s most in one game.
Harold Jamison had 17 rebounds.
“We’ve got to learn to be patient and not get it all back at once,” McIntyre said. “We tried to rush things and we weren’t playing without our offense.”
Still, Clemson trailed just 27-22 at the half despite horrid shooting (7-of-27).
With Davis back on the bench, Illinois’ starters heated up and built a 42-25 lead with 12:24 to go. Bradford had eight points and Sergio McClain scored six during the run.
Bradford finished with 16 points, including 11 in the second half.
Clemson got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Clemson is 0-2 against the Big Ten this season after losing to Michigan 59-56 in last month’s Maui Classic.
It was Clemson’s second straight game at the recently opened Bi-Lo Center. The sellout crowd of 14,687 was the largest to watch college basketball in South Carolina.
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