CLEMSON - It was touch-and-go for a while, but defense eventually trumped offense Monday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Clemson men's basketball team wrapped up non-conference play with a late-game surge and a runaway 80-50 victory over visiting VMI, improving to 9-3 heading into its ACC opener on Saturday at Boston College.
The Keydets, who came into the game as one of the nation's most high-scoring teams, were held to 29 percent shooting, including just 11 percent (3-of-28) from three-point range. VMI's final 50-point total was a season low, and nearly 40 points below the team's season scoring average.
Clemson, which trailed 16-9 early, finished the first half with a 21-12 run to take a 32-31 lead at the break. Solid defense, better rebounding and transition offense helped the Tigers carve out a 10-point lead early in the second half, and, after turning back a rally that brought VMI within four at 48-44, finished the game with a 32-6 scoring spree.
The Tigers overcame a sub-par offensive performance by K.J. McDaniels with double-figure performances from Jordan Roper, who matched his career high with 19 points, Rod Hall with 14, Adonis Filer with 12, and Landry Nnoko with 11.
Roper and Damarcus Harrison grabbed eight rebounds each, taking advantage of long caroms off VMI's frequent three-point misses.
"We were a little rusty after not playing for 11 or 12 days, and we played at VMI's pace early," said Clemson coach Brad Brownell. "We tried to go with 'em when we had the chance, but we didn't finish as well as we needed to.
"But it was an unbelievable defensive performance to hold that team to 50 points. We didn't give much help, but just stayed with their shooters. They took a million threes, and about half of them were bad shots. We didn't think they could beat us with twos."
The Tigers adjusted their rebounding game at halftime, and repeatedly turned defensive rebounds into transition opportunities on offense.
"It's takes a different kind of block-out against a team like that," Brownell said. "They take a lot of wild shots and then have five guys going to the glass at times. But if you can get the rebound cleanly, you have attack situations, and we were able to take advantage of that."
McDaniels - the Tigers' leading scorer and the ACC's leader in blocked shots - came off the bench, got into early foul trouble, and didn't score until midway through the second half. He finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
The Tigers shot 44 percent from the field, but made just four of 20 three-point attempts. They continued their improved free throw shooting by making 18 of 23 (78.3 percent).
Clemson will open its ACC schedule on Saturday against Boston College at Chestnut Hill. The game will tip off at 4 p.m.