It’s been five years since Clemson lost a game in November, and the team is wary of becoming overconfident after its latest three dominant early-season performances.
The No. 19 Tigers look to avoid a letdown and continue their early-season success Monday night when they face Winthrop.
Clemson (3-0) has won 29 consecutive games in November since a loss to Boston College on Nov. 26, 2004. That streak hasn’t been in much danger this season, as the Tigers have won their first three games by an average of 35.0 points.
They’ve won their first 10 games in each of the past four seasons and opened 16-0 in 2008-09, one win shy of the best start in program history in 2006-07.
“We have a lot of potential (but) right now, we need to stay focused,” sophomore guard Tanner Smith said. “Sometimes, these early games, you can come out and not be as intense as you need to be.”
Clemson overcame a slow start Friday by concluding the first half with a 17-2 run, en route to an 89-67 win at UNC-Greensboro. That was closer than the Tigers’ previous two games, which were both decided by more than 40 points.
“We played well for the last 32, 35 minutes of the game,” coach Oliver Purnell said. “I thought we came out just a hair sluggish, but the work that we put in the last couple of days … We got after our guys a little bit, and it kind of came to the surface.”
Clemson is shooting 48.5 percent from the floor, including 45.1 percent from beyond the arc. The team has also been superb defensively, holding opponents to 35.6 percent shooting while forcing 78 turnovers.
“It just says that we’ve got a lot of talent. Defensively, we’re there. We’ve got to keep working,” said senior forward David Potter, who is averaging 12.0 points in his first season as a starter. “We’ve just got to learn not to let up in the second half, when we know we’ve got the game (in hand). We’ve got to have that killer instinct. … Once we start to develop more as a team and understanding more what coach wants on the defensive end, I think we’re going to be great.”
The Tigers have three players joining Potter with double-digit scoring averages. Forward Trevor Booker leads the team with 13.3 points per game, while Smith is averaging 10.7 and fellow guard Andre Young 10.0.
Clemson is 7-1 all-time against Winthrop (2-1), including 6-1 at home.
The Eagles have won two of their last five games against ranked opponents, but might have trouble against the Tigers’ stingy defense. They’re shooting 33.9 percent from the field overall and just 13.2 percent from 3-point range.
Winthrop made 32.0 percent of its shots Saturday, but Gideon Gamble helped the team overcome it by sinking a 3-pointer with 53 seconds to play to beat South Carolina-Upstate 49-46. The freshman guard finished with 12 points after totaling three over the previous two games.
Andre Jones will likely try to be more involved against Clemson. The sophomore guard had a season-low eight points Saturday after totaling 26 in the first two games.