Grantham leads Clemson to easy victory over Western Carolina
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Donte Grantham scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead Clemson to an 85-57 victory over Western Carolina in both teams’ season opener Friday night.
“It’s really kind of the way you want an opening game to go,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “We had to work a little bit in the first 10 minutes and make a few plays, but I thought the mid part of the first half we did some good things defending the 3, attacking the basket, got to the free-throw line.”
The Tigers shot 50 percent from the field and held the Catamounts to 39 percent shooting while outrebounding the visitors 39-32.
Elijah Thomas came off the bench to record 11 points while starter Gabe DeVoe also reached that mark.
Grantham, a senior forward, shot 5 of 6 from the field and made all three of his 3-point attempts. He credited his teammates for finding him in open space.
“We’ve got so many guys who can have a good night any night,” Grantham said. “That was just a flash of just how we can play.”
Coming off a season of seemingly countless close losses, Clemson made sure there was nothing to sweat in the first game to begin 2017-18.
The Tigers led 22-19 with 8:56 left to play in the first half, but they closed with a 22-2 run over the final 6:59 of the half to take a 44-22 lead into the locker room.
“We got them to turn the ball over. We got some steals and some long rebounds that led to transitions,” said Clemson guard Marcquise Reed, who scored 10 points. “When we’re playing in the open floor we’re a real hard team to stop.”
Haboubacar Mutombo, nephew of former NBA center Dikembe Mutombo, led Western Carolina with 10 points.
The Catamounts recorded 20 turnovers, which Clemson turned into 20 points. The Tigers also got 38 points from their bench.
“It’s always really good when you get to play a lot of kids and they play well and make a basket or two,” Brownell said. “Now we can move on and start to get a little better. We need improve our turnovers, but beyond that I thought our defense was good and it was a good start.”
Western Carolina: The Catamounts, who were picked to finish ninth in the Southern Conference, have lost 28 of their last 37 road openers.
Clemson: The Tigers got off to a solid start defensively, despite not having junior forward David Skara, whom Brownell called the team’s best defender in the preseason. The Valparaiso transfer is suspended for the first nine games this season for violating an undisclosed NCAA rule at his previous school.
Forward Aamir Simms was one of four freshmen to debut for the Tigers. He scored six points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes of action and will be called upon more with Skara suspended.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
A year after struggling on the defensive end, Clemson’s 57 points allowed Friday would’ve been the fourth lowest total all of last season.
Western Carolina takes on Hiwassee in the Catamounts’ home opener Sunday in Cullowhee, N.C.
Clemson gets another home game Sunday against North Carolina A&T before playing in next week’s Gildan Charleston Classic.