CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)—Brad Brownell has continually challenged his two primary senior leaders for more amid Clemson’s non-conference sputters.
It’s a small sample size, but guards Tanner Smith and Andre Young shouldered more of the scoring burden Saturday, combining for more than half the team’s points as the Tigers stymied Winthrop 60-40.
“We’re the leaders of this team, and we have to continue to lead the younger guys while also propelling ourselves to good games,” said Smith, who has twice scored 17 points in games against Long Beach State as a junior and sophomore. “We did a good job doing that tonight, but it’s only one game. We have to continue doing that every night.”
Clemson also wouldn’t mind replicating a defensive performance that yielded 23.8 percent shooting in the second half from Winthrop (4-7), which had lost both lost by more than 20 in each of its previous two games against high-majors Virginia and Marquette.
Andre Jones had 12 points for the Eagles, seven below his season average. Reggie Middleton added 11.
The 40 points are the fewest Clemson has allowed since a 61-40 home triumph over Delaware State exactly one year earlier.
“We had a defensive goal of holding Clemson to 59 points because they grind the game out,” Winthrop coach Randy Peele said. “But defensively, I don’t know if fans understand how good they are.
“Our shot selection was very poor against that defense. They shot 55 percent in the second half, 50 for the game, and that’s not good enough to beat a BCS school.”
A Jones 3-pointer trimmed Clemson’s lead to 22-18 with seven minutes left in the first half. But that was the last point the outcome would be considered in doubt.
The Eagles would manage just four points in a span of their next 17 possessions.
Clemson expanded on a seven-point halftime advantage with a 12-0 run fueled by transition 3-pointers from Smith and Young.
By the time Jones stopped the bleeding on a lay-in with 15:10 left, the Tigers led 41-26.
Saturday’s game marked Clemson’s sixth game against in-state competition in the opening nine contests. The Tigers finished the stretch 3-3 against in-state opponents.
Coming off the consecutive losses, Clemson shuffled its lineup, inserting 7-foot-2 center Catalin Baciu for struggling forward Milton Jennings, who had also missed practice time because of illness. Baciu mustered five points in a season-high 17 minutes.
“This was a good win for us,” Brownell said. “Winthrop can be a dangerous team; their guards can really score. We did an unbelievable job defensively. In a low-possession game, to win by 20, that’s pretty good play.”