CLEMSON - Head coach Brad Brownell talks about his first win as Clemson basketball coach.
Tigers run away from Catamounts
Four players scored in double figures as Clemson out-muscled Western Carolina, a team that's expected to contend for the Southern Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"Our guys were really ready to play from the start. I thought our starters played well," Brownell said.
Devin Booker led the effort with team-highs in points (16) and rebounds (seven).
"I just wanted to go out and make a big impact from the first minute," he said. "Coach wanted us to start off right. We went out there and got after it. I just went out there and did whatever I could do to help the team."
That included Clemson's first field goal attempt of the season--an uncontested 3-point shot, which he drained.
"I've been working on my jump shot. We needed something to get us going," Booker said. "That worked."
Western Carolina took back the lead on the ensuing possession, but never regained it.
"Us getting off to a good start really helped us," Brownell said. "There in the middle, they made a small run, but I was pleased with our guys…to kind of maintain our lead."
Much of it was done without Demontez Stitt, who picked up his second foul with 10:09 left in the first half, stayed in foul trouble most of the night--picking up two more just three minutes into the second half. In only 12 minutes, the senior managed to score seven points.
Tanner Smith had 12 and four assists. Andre Young had 10 and four.
Milton Jennings came off the bench to add 14 points and four assists.
"He did some good things offensively," Brownell said of Jennings. "He's still got to improve rebounding-wise and defensively. He's more comfortable, I think, with the way we play. He's shown some good things that way."
After the game, Jennings said the coaches challenged him during Thursday's practice and again during Friday afternoon's walk-through.
"They just did a little gut-check moment, and it woke me up," he said. "It's like, if I want to play this season, I've got to come out and play hard."
The Tigers out-muscled the Catamounts with 42 points in the paint and on the glass, 37-29.
"This was a great team," Smith said. "They were very physical, came out ready to play. We were the same way."
Despite the 87 points and 59 percent shooting effort from the field, Brownell said there's still work to do on the offensive end.
The Tigers' are still learning to grasp the motion-system that he brought from Wright State.
"I thought our execution was pretty good. We don't understand how to grind and how to flow with it yet," Brownell said. "That's hard. It's not easy to be comfortable with it, because it's so drastically different."
The score could have been much more lopsided, had the Tigers not struggled from the free-throw line (25-of-46).
Clemson hosts Wofford on Monday at 7.
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