Clemson, SC – The Clemson Tigers opened the season with an 85-57 win over Western Carolina. The Tigers are led by some veteran upperclassmen in the starting lineup with talented freshmen coming off the bench.
After shaking off some rust to start the game, the Tigers went on a 22-2 run beginning at about the seven-minute mark to close out the half. The run was powered by swarming defense that created easy fast break opportunities. Gabe DeVoe started the run by knocking down a deep three pointer and ended up with 11 points on the night. Senior Donte Grantham led the Tigers in scoring with 14 points on an efficient shooting night going 5-of-6 from the field including 3-of-3 from the three point line. Grantham is a versatile and athletic forward that has all the tools to play at the next level. The Tigers got to the free throw line early and often, shooting 25-of-31 as a team. Clemson played unselfish basketball tonight having assists on 14-of-27 made field goals.
The story behind this game Clemson’s solid depth. Head Coach Brad Brownell played 10 out of his available 13 players just in the first half. Marquise Reed (10 points), Shelton Mitchell (six points, six assists) and Elijah Thomas (11 points, five rebounds) were all key contributors and will prove to be leaders on the team throughout the season. The overwhelming depth of the Tigers proved to be too much for the Catamounts to handle. Young Clemson players to keep an eye out for are Aamir Simms and Anthony Oliver. They are both true freshman with impressive skillsets. Simms is a versatile forward that can play inside and out while Oliver is a knockdown shooter. They both look like they have a bright future.
Western Carolina is looking to rebound off of a tough season last year. They are led by redshirt senior guard Haboubacar Mutombo. And yes you read that correctly, he is the nephew of Dikembe Mutombo. While Haboubacar doesn’t have the height of his uncle, he plays just as tough. He led the team in scoring and proved to be tough to handle. Clemson had a difficult time guarding him in the first half as he scored six quick points to start the game. Coach Brownell made some adjustments and the Tigers were able to frustrate Mutombo as the game went on.
Western Carolina is anchored in the middle by 6-7 junior Mika Amius. He is undersized for the center position but he is an incredible athlete. He has great length that helped him get two early blocks that caught the Tigers off-guard. However, the Catamounts were simply overmatched and undersized in this matchup. They have a good mixture of senior leadership and young talent who will likely develop under Coach Larry Hunter. The Catamounts have more tough matchups against top-25 teams before they get to conference play. They will likely improve upon their ninth place conference finish last season.
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