CLEMSON — Everything about the night in TigerTown was a little sluggish.
Rain and fog and low-attendance – a sub-.500 MEAC opponent – and an off-kilter Tigers’ team were on hand, and visiting S.C. State took full advantage early.
However, Devin Coleman’s 16-point first-half and a balanced second-half attack pushed Clemson through, improving to 7-1 with a 65-49 win.
S.C. State led by as much as 10 points in the first half, making eight of their first 12 shots.
Earning his first start after back-to-back double-digit efforts, the redshirt sophomore Coleman didn’t disappoint.
With Clemson trailing 20-11 over 10 minutes in, the redshirt sophomore scored 12 of the team’s next 15 points to seize their first lead, 23-22.
Clemson 65, S.C. State 49
“In the beginning we started off kind of slow so I hit a couple shots,” said Coleman. “I wanted to bring some energy and get everybody up because we looked a little sluggish in the beginning. I just wanted to show (energy). Try to be aggressive.”
From there, it was a back-and-forth affair with seven lead changes and a 34-31 Tigers’ edge at the half.
S.C. State’s 45-percent shooting in the first half was the second-highest Clemson had allowed this season, while the Tigers committed eight of their 11 turnovers in the session.
“I thought South Carolina State played well tonight,” Tigers head coach Brad Brownell said. “They played very well in the first half, and to be honest, we didn’t show a lot of maturity in the first half. We weren’t focused defensively. We made a lot of mistakes. We hadn’t done a lot of that and they capitalized.”
Thankfully for Brownell and co., the second session was far less eventful.
Clemson’s young big men took over, in career nights from sophomore center Landry Nnoko and forward Josh Smith. The two accounted for 16 points in the second half, while Clemson’s defense held S.C. State to 18 points and 23 percent shooting.
Smith scored a career-high six points, while Nnoko posted his second-ever double-double (13 points and rebounds).
Brownell says Nnoko responded to his midgame challenge.
“I had to get after him in the middle of the game to light a fire and ask him if he was going to get any tough plays – get an offensive rebound,” said Brownell. “He finally did and scored and got excited and he played better. There’s going to be up-and-downs (with the bigs).”
Noticeably absent was leading-scorer and junior swingman K.J. McDaniels, who sat a large chunk of the first half after an early foul and missed his only first-half shot attempt.
He didn’t make his second jumper of the game until the under-4 mark of the second half. McDaniels finished with seven points, snapping an eight-game run in double-figures. The Birmingham, Ala. native had posted at least 20 points in five of the Clemson’s first seven games.
“It was one of those nights,” Brownell said. “You don’t see that from K.J. very much. The one that he threw in that was a miracle that went in — then all of a sudden he got a basket. He just needed to see a ball go in to take the stress off. It was 35 minutes into the game (though).”
The Tigers held an opponent under 50 points for a third time this season and a 25th time in the Brownell era.
Clemson returns to action this Saturday at Arkansas (2 p.m., CSS).