Clemson shuts down Rajin’ Cajuns for 7th straight win, 89-60
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson’s defensive resurgence continued Friday as the Tigers put the clamps on high-scoring Louisiana in an 89-60 victory at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“Our defense was really good in a lot of ways, challenged most shots,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We rebounded it well against a good rebounding team and kept them out of transition.”
Clemson’s Donte Grantham scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while point guard Shelton Mitchell added 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in the Tigers’ seventh consecutive win.
The Tigers (11-1), known for their stingy defense under coach Brad Brownell, took a step back in that category a year ago and allowed 71.4 points per game, the most in the Brownell era.
This year, though, they’ve held opponents to under 62 points per contest, and their latest shutdown was one of the more impressive ones this season.
“I think we take more pride (on defense this year),” said Grantham, who made 6 of his 9 shots in 38 minutes. “This offseason we really worked on our defensive discipline and really worked on guarding one-on-one and our communication. Sometimes last year we would be lackadaisical on defense, worried about offense.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns (10-3) came into the game averaging 88.6 points per game, which ranked 13th nationally, but they hit just 28 percent of their field-goal attempts, totaled 28 first-half points and were held to their lowest scoring output of the season.
“I think our guys are really trying hard,” Brownell said. “We still have limitations like a lot of teams do but guys are giving us good effort most of the time. By and large, I’m very pleased. Our last two games we’ve defended really well.”
Louisiana transfer Marcus Stroman, a former South Carolina guard, led the team with 16 points.
“He’s also an older guard,” Brownell said. “I thought he played well for them tonight.”
Frank Bartley added 14 points and six rebounds for Louisiana.
Clemson outscored the Ragin’ Cajuns in second-chance points 14-2 and recorded 42 points from its bench.
The Tigers trailed just once in the game and led by as many as 15 points in the first half. They extended their 43-28 halftime lead to 19 less than two minutes into the second half.
“Great way to finish first semester,” Brownell said. “That was kind of the message we had leading in, was finish. I thought our guys played at a really high level.”
Louisiana would try to chip away, and it got within 12 on a Johnathan Stove 3-pointer with 9:57 to play. But the Tigers would go on an 11-0 run late in the half while Louisiana didn’t hit a field goal in the final 7:49.
“Couldn’t be more pleased with the way that we’ve played, the approach of our team,” Brownell said. “It’s almost a little bad we’re heading into break. You almost want to keep playing.”
Louisiana: Despite the setback, the Ragin’ Cajuns have a chance at reaching the 20-win mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons. They were picked to finish second in the Sun Belt Conference in the preseason.
Clemson: The Tigers completed their best regular-season nonconference schedule since going 14-0 in 2008-09. That team went on to earn an NCAA Tournament berth, something this Tigers squad is looking to do for the first time since 2010-11.
With 3:01 left in the first half, Grantham wasn’t boxed out on a missed shot, ran through the lane and dunked the putback to give Clemson a 35-20 lead. The big play also marked the 1000th career point for Grantham, a senior.
Clemson center Elijah Thomas didn’t start because of coach’s decision, but he came off the bench to score 15 points and block four shots, including two on the same first-half possession.
Louisiana: The Ragin’ Cajuns play at Little Rock on Dec 29.
Clemson: The Tigers are off until Dec. 30, when they begin ACC play against N.C. State.