CLEMSON — Clemson played the kind of game Brad Brownell loves Thursday night.
The Tigers controlled the pace against No.16 Gonzaga, the nation’s highest-scoring team at 94 points per game.
They played smothering defense.
They hung with the Bulldogs for 30-plus minutes.
Ultimately, a lack of offense sunk the Tigers.
Gonzaga pulled away late for a 57-49 win at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. Clemson fell to 2-1, and will face UTEP in a consolation bracket game at 5:30 p.m., televised by ESPN2.
The Miners beat Clemson 61-48 in the opener of Hawaii’s Outrigger Classic last Christmas.
Clemson shot just 31 percent from the field, but the experience was a building block for a team dominated by 10 freshmen and sophomores.
The Tigers held a surprising 24-23 halftime lead thanks to excellent defense.
Clemson controlled the pace with blanket-like defensive work.
Gonzaga shot just 33.3 percent from the field, and the Tigers forced seven turnovers while committing just three of their own.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jordan Roper and Damarcus Harrison gave the Tigers a 24-18 lead with 2:27 left in the half, but the Zags finished by scoring the final five points, including Kelly Olynyk’s tip-in with 1.3 seconds to play.
Gonzaga favors a lightning-quick transition pace akin to North Carolina, and with point guard David Stockton – the son of NBA legend John Stockton – it found a better pace after halftime.
Clemson led 30-25 moments into the half, but Gonzaga went on a 10-3 run, taking a 35-33 lead thanks to versatile big man Kelly Olynyk’s 18-foot jumper.
A Jordan Roper 3-pointer cut the lead to 39-38, but Olynyk found backdoor cuts for consecutive buckets, pushing the lead back to five points.
Following a turnover and Gonzaga bucket, Brownell called a timeout with 6:24 left and his team trailing 47-39. Clemson never recovered, as the Zags stretched the lead to 11 points in the final minute.
Gonzaga shot 69 percent from the field after halftime, and shot 49 percent for the game.
Clemson made just six of 22 3-pointers, but freshman guards Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper combined for four of them. Filer was the Tigers’ only player in double figures, with 10 points. Roper and sophomore K.J. McDaniels added eight apiece.
Senior big men Devin Booker and Milton Jennings were blanketed all night in the paint, and combined for 11 points. Jennings chipped in eight rebounds and five assists.