Clemson dominates Furman 71-35
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)
It hasn't been the easiest few months for Clemson sophomore guard Jordan Roper. Following a solid freshman season, Roper received a major scare over the summer when he suffered what coach Brad Brownell termed a ''mini-stroke'' which forced tests and, according to Brownell, ''questions about how he was going to be.''
And after a solid start to the 2013-14 season, Roper suffered a concussion against UMass in the Charleston Classic finals that sidelined him for a game and hampered his offensive rhythm when he returned.
Roper broke out Saturday night, scoring a season-high 16 points in Clemson's 71-35 rout of Furman. Clemson never looked back following a 17-0 first-half run keyed by Roper.
The Tigers improved to 8-2 on the season, while Furman fell to 4-6.
''There was some concern,'' Brownell said of Roper. ''He had a tough offseason, dealt with a couple things and hasn't been as smooth as everyone would like. At times, he thinks about things that have bothered him, but he's doing fine now, which is good.''
The Paladins shot just 30.2 percent from the field and their 35 points was the lowest by an opponent in coach Brad Brownell's four-year tenure at Clemson.
''We really pride ourselves on defense. It's part of our identity,'' Roper said. ''Coach Brownell's philosophy. We're a hard-nosed defensive team and we really stress defense each game.''
Brownell joked that such a philosophy needs encouragement, saying, ''You don't see many guys in their free time working on defensive slides and jump balls.'' But his team has bought in.
''Our guys understand that's important, it's what we do to be successful,'' he said. ''It gives you identity. I think good teams have that.''
Devin Coleman and K.J. McDaniels each scored 12 points for Clemson. Kendrec Ferrara led Furman with 10 points.
Clemson travels to Auburn on Thursday, while Furman plays host to Liberty on Friday.
Clemson rolled into halftime with a 38-19 lead. The Tigers led 21-17 with 6:51 left, but finished the half on a 17-2 run sparked by Roper. With Clemson up 26-17, Roper nailed back-to-back 3-pointers and added a driving layup, scoring eight consecutive points for a 34-17 edge.
He broke out of a shooting slump that began after he suffered the concussion. He missed a game against Coastal Carolina and combined to hit just two of his next nine shots against South Carolina State and Arkansas.
''I've been trying to put up a bunch of shots, get in the flow of the game since I had the concussion, and those shots helped us,'' Roper said. ''When anybody makes a shot for us, it builds the enthusiasm, it builds the momentum.''
The Tigers won their 30th consecutive game over Furman, dating back to the 1978-79 season. The Paladins are struggling under first-year coach Niko Medved and entered Saturday coming off a 97-93 home loss to Division II Mars Hill.
As usual, defense served as a foundation for Clemson's success. The Tigers came into the game tops nationally in scoring defense, allowing 53.6 points per game, and tops in field goal percentage, yielding 35 percent. But with just over 8 minutes left in the half, the Paladins were shooting 50 percent from the field and trailed only 21-17.
They missed their next eight shots and committed three turnovers. Only Stephen Croone's layup with 1 second left in the half broke the drought.
''We hung with them for a while and then we got stagnant, tried to play a little too much one-on-one, didn't take care of the ball,'' Medved said. ''That fueled their transition. I think we'll learn a lot from this game, I really do. This isn't the first team they've done this to.''
Clemson extended its lead after halftime. A pair of dunks by McDaniels - the first a one-hand alley-oop slam, the second a windmill slam off an open-court steal - pushed the margin to 63-28 with 7:12 to play.
Furman shot just 23.8 percent for the second half and 30.2 percent for the game. Clemson finished the game shooting 50 percent and 50 percent in the second half.
''It's just being more aggressive than we were,'' McDaniels said. ''I feel like we were a little bit too passive in the first half. We had to get it together in the locker room, came back down and take care of business.''
The Tigers also owned a sizable edge in rebounds (37-23) and points in the paint (36-18).
Clemson lost only two seniors from last season's 13-18 team, and Roper says defense has been a major factor in his team's improvement.
''Guys are more experienced and we're in better position defensively,'' he said. ''One of the main things we wanted to emphasize tonight was deflections. The past few games, we haven't been getting that many deflections. You want to get steals and blocks and tipped passes. Just have more activity defensively.''