CLEMSON, S.C. – The Stetson men’s basketball team outscored Clemson 36-25 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 31-point halftime deficit, as the Tigers defeated the Hatters in the season opener of the 2013-14 season by a score of 71-51.
Stetson looked good out of the gates thanks to hot shooting by senior Aaron Graham. The guard scored the Hatters’ first 10 points on two threes, a pull up jumper and a pair of free throws to keep Stetson in the game at 13-10 just 4:48 into the contest.
“We started pretty good in the first half, but then all of the sudden we had that ‘deer in the headlights’ look,” Stetson head coach Corey Williams said. “We lost our momentum and Clemson was able to take advantage of that.”
That’s when the game got away from the Hatters. Eleven first half turnovers, which led to 16 Clemson points, propelled the Tigers to a 27-2 run that extended their lead to 40-12 with just 2:46 to play in the first half.
“Whenever you give a team like Clemson those type of points it’s very difficult to win any ball game,” Williams said of the points off of turnovers. “We talked at length at how we had to stop their transition baskets. In the first half, though, we had so many breakdowns.”
Clemson’s top returning scorer, junior K.J. McDaniels, was phenomenal during the run – and in the game in general – scoring 15 first half points on 6-of-9 shooting and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
Coming out of the half down 46-15, Stetson looked like a different team in the final 20 minutes, which began with a tip-in by junior Kentwan Smith. The Hatters cut the Clemson lead to just 21 points, at 53-32, thanks to a 6-1 run that was ignited by a driving layup by senior Raymone Andrews, and capped off by a three-pointer from freshman B.J. Glasford.
The Tigers extended their lead back to 29 points midway through the second, but Stetson fought back again, cutting it to just a 19-point deficit when redshirt freshman Brian Pegg stole a Clemson pass and went coast-to-coast for a finger roll that made it 61-42 with 5:17 to play.
Stetson got as close as 16 points, when four straight free throws from Andrews, and one more by senior Hunter Miller made it 65-49 in favor of the Tigers with just 1:54 remaining in the game.
Clemson closed out the game with a three-pointer by junior Rod Hall in the final minute of play to come away with the 71-51 home victory in the season opener.
Stetson benefited from only turning the ball over three times in the second half, limiting Clemson to zero points off turnovers in the final 20 minutes. The Hatters shot 48 percent from the floor, 40 percent from beyond the arc, and went 8-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half.
“They moved the ball, they played unselfish, and then they relaxed,” Williams said of his players in the second half. “They allowed our defense to create some offensive opportunities. We started playing like we knew we could play.”
The Hatters were led by Graham’s 11 points – all coming in the first half – and Andrews’ 10. Andrews added a game high five assists and didn’t turn the ball over once. Pegg recorded a game best nine rebounds.
Clemson’s McDaniels led all players with 20 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range. Hall added 11 points, and Damarcus Harrison chipped in with 10 points for the Tigers.
Stetson will continue its eight-game road trip to start the season with a trip to #21 Notre Dame on Sunday. The Hatters and the Fighting Irish are scheduled to tip off at 1:00 p.m. on ESPN3.