CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)—K.C. Rivers took his grandmother’s words to heart—and Samford paid the price.
Rivers scored 16 points to lead No. 21 Clemson to a 78-45 rout of Samford on Saturday.
The Tigers’ perfect start ended last week with an 85-82 loss to Mississippi in the final of the San Juan Shootout. Rivers was upset over the holiday break that his club squandered a second-half lead to a Rebels team the Tigers had handled easily in last year’s NIT.
“My grandma told me, ‘Well, it don’t hurt to lose early. It’s easy to learn from your mistakes,”’ Rivers said.
The Tigers looked like they had indeed learned from what went wrong against Mississippi.
Clemson was up 14-0 before the first timeout, nailing five of its first eight shots.
Samford, outrebounded 40-11, never got the lead back under double digits.
Bulldogs coach Jimmy Tillette joked that after Clemson’s quick start, he had to sit on the bench and watch the rest of the way. “It was excruciating,” he said.
An opera buff, Tillette compared the game to his having to watch composer Richard Wagner’s four operas of his famed Ring cycle “without music.”
Rivers’ play was a big reason why. Along with collecting double-figure points for the 12th game this season, Clemson’s junior guard added seven rebounds and five assists.
Rivers’ backcourt partner, freshman Demontez Stitt, also kept the Tigers going. He had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and four assists.
Joe Ross Merritt was Samford’s only player in double figures, finishing with 14 points.
Clemson put this one away quickly with its early run against the smaller, slower Bulldogs.
Samford had nearly twice as many turnovers as rebounds (19 to 11).
Stitt had a quick steal and bucket, then added a three-point play moments later to push the Tigers lead to 11-0. Terrence Oglesby capped the run with a long 3-pointer.
Samford, of the Ohio Valley Conference, got its first points on Merritt’s two foul shots with nearly 5 minutes gone. It was another 2 minutes before Merritt hit a 3-pointer for Samford’s first field goal to make it 17-5.
The Bulldogs never got that close again.
Clemson coach Oliver Purnell was confident his players would shake off their subpar San Juan performance as it prepares for league play.
“I wasn’t pleased five days ago,” Purnell said. “I’m a lot more pleased now.”
Clemson also showed off the depth Purnell hopes will aid his club when it opens the Atlantic Coast Conference season with No. 1 North Carolina on Jan. 6.
Reserve forward Raymond Sykes hit four of his five shots in the first 20 minutes. Oglesby, a freshman fan favorite, had two 3-pointers from well behind the line.
Forwards Sam Perry and Jerai Grant each saw extensive minutes in relief of starter James Mays, who picked up two early fouls.
Things continued to go in Clemson’s favor after the break. The Tigers opened with a 6-0 run and when Rivers notched his second 3-pointer, they were ahead 52-22.
Clemson was up 65-28 on Stitt’s bucket with 8:13 to play. Then the Tigers got sloppy. They turned the ball over three straight times and Purnell angrily called timeout as Samford cut the lead to 65-36.
However, David Potter hit a 3-pointer to stretch the margin back over 30 points.
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