Chris Jones owns 2nd half again, carries No. 5 Louisville past Clemson
Chris Jones once again finished strong, and No. 5 Louisville followed suit in its Atlantic Coast Conference home debut.
Jones had his second straight 20-point second half to help the Cardinals rally past Clemson 58-52 on Wednesday night.
Louisville trailed 22-18 at halftime after shooting 22 percent, but Jones and fellow guard Terry Rozier helped the Cardinals (14-1, 2-0 ACC) snap out of their funk with a 17-0 run to open the second half that featured big plays on both ends.
Jones’ three 3-pointers and 7-of-9 free throw shooting were crucial, especially consecutive long-range shots that gave Louisville a 42-32 lead and thwarted Clemson’s momentum. He also made three of his five steals in the second period.
Jones added another timely shot from behind the arc en route to 22 points that followed Sunday’s similar performance at Wake Forest in which he scored 20 of his 22 after halftime.
"I just tried to let the game come to me in the second half," said Jones, who shot 6 of 17 but was 5 for 12 in the final 20 minutes. "In the first half we kind of struggled offensively without Trez (forward Montrezl Harrell) in. We had to do what we had to do. At the end of the day we got to grind it out.
"My teammates believed in me making big shots, and I had to do what I had to do."
Rozier added 15 points, six rebounds and four assists for Louisville.
Jaron Blossomgame scored 15 points for Clemson (8-6, 0-2), which shot 31 percent from the field.
"They made some adjustments and really hurt us at the beginning of the second half," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "By the time we got our legs back under us, we were in trouble. We fought back, made it a game and had a chance but couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch."
Wayne Blackshear had 11 points including three 3-pointers for Louisville, which shot just 33 percent overall but 43 percent in a second half that made the difference.
Damarcus Harrison had 12 points for Clemson, which got the performance, pace and rebounding (40-37 margin) it needed in its quest for a signature win against a highly ranked conference opponent. What the Tigers couldn’t get was offense, as they shot 8 of 26 in both halves and committed 15 turnovers — a handful of which came during Louisville’s second-half run that turned the game.
"Our guys have to understand what the ACC’s all about," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "You want to run, North Carolina will be more than happy to accommodate you. Duke will be more than happy to accommodate. Certain teams are not going to do that and you’re going to have to win with defense and that’s what we had to do tonight — win with defense."
The late tipoff might have contributed to lethargic shooting starts by both teams, which combined to make just 14 of 53 attempts in a low-scoring half.
Louisville started the second half more energetically and Rozier was the catalyst on both ends. He poked away a couple of passes, scored six points and lobbed a pass to Harrell (six points) for a big dunk and the Cardinals’ biggest lead at 35-22.
Clemson got as close as 42-40 with 6:07 left before Louisville’s 6-1 run, which included a jumper by Jones.
SHORT-HANDED, BUT SURE-HANDED
Louisville played without freshman 7-footer Anas Mahmoud because of a migraine. Mangok Mathiang and Chinanu Onuaku combined for 15 rebounds and four points in his place.
Clemson: The Tigers had 12 assists for the fourth time this season and have seven double-digit efforts in that category.
Louisville: Pitino improved to 2-1 against the Tigers and 9-5 in league home openers with the Cardinals.