Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tuesday’s Three Things to Know: Kentucky loses, K-State whips Oklahoma and UNC wins

Leave a comment

1. KENTUCKY FALLS AS JARRED VANDERBILT MAKES HIS LONG-AWAITED DEBUT

Having missed No. 18 Kentucky’s first 17 games due to a foot injury, Kentucky freshman Jarred Vanderbilt made his debut Tuesday night against South Carolina. While Vanderbilt showed some flashes of the skill that made him one of the top recruits in the 2017 class, it was clear that there’s a lot of rust to be shaken off. But the return of Vanderbilt was not enough to help Kentucky avoid defeat, as South Carolina picked up the 76-68 victory thanks in large part to Chris Silva.

Silva, who’s been thrust into a position of leadership due to how much South Carolina lost from last year’s Final Four squad, was the best player on the floor Tuesday night. Silva scored a game-high 27 points while also grabbing eight rebounds, shooting 9-for-17 from the field and 9-for-13 at the foul line. Outside of Nick Richards, who tallied 12 points and four rebounds before fouling out, Kentucky did not offer up much resistance in the paint and Silva made the Wildcats pay for it.

Add in the fact that both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (six points, six turnovers) and Hamidou Diallo (five points) struggled to get going, and the end result was the shorthanded Wildcats losing a game they led by 13 points with 13:25 remaining. In a game that lacked flow for significant stretches — the teams combined to attempt 74 free throws — Kentucky managed just four fast break points. And with the point guard play lacking sans the injured Quade Green, Kentucky couldn’t do enough offensively to close out the Gamecocks.

2. KANSAS STATE WHIPS NO. 4 OKLAHOMA

There’s no denying the fact that Oklahoma freshman point guard Trae Young is one of the nation’s best players, and an early frontrunner for national Player of the Year honors. That being said, the Sooners really need their best playmaker to get his turnover issues in check. After turning the ball over nine times in the Sooners’ overtime win over TCU on Saturday, Young racked up a stunning 12 turnovers in Oklahoma’s 87-69 loss at Kansas State Tuesday night.

Add in the fact that he shot 8-for-21 from the field in scoring his 19 points, and the end result was what is the worst night of Young’s freshman season. Give credit to Bruce Weber’s charges, especially Barry Brown Jr., for much of this as they were active defensively and got after Young all night long. Brown also scored 24 points and dished out five assists, with Dean Wade adding 21, seven boards and seven assists as Kansas State picked up its first win over a ranked team this season.

Our Rob Dauster has more on Young’s rough night here.

3. NO. 15 NORTH CAROLINA HOLDS OFF NO. 20 CLEMSON

Having never beaten North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Clemson dropped to 0-59 all-time as Cameron Johnson led five Tar Heels in double figures with 21 points. After shooting a combined 3-for-16 from three in the four games prior, Johnson was 6-for-9 from deep and 7-for-10 from the field overall. Johnson and Kenny Williams III combined to score 20 points in the first half, which helped North Carolina build a 15-point halftime lead despite Joel Berry II and Luke Maye both struggling offensively.

Berry and Maye would pick it up in the second half, which helped North Carolina hold off a Clemson team that made ten of its first 11 shots from the field. Marquise Reed tallied 21 points and Shelton Mitchell 18 for the Tigers, who shot better than 61 percent from the field in the second half. Clemson should be fine moving forward, but the big takeaway from this result is Johnson breaking out of his slump and showing just how valuable he is to North Carolina moving forward.

Cameron Johnson ending his slump is big for No. 15 North Carolina

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When it comes to the long-term hopes of No. 15 North Carolina, not only to win the ACC but to also be a national title contender, the play of veterans Joel Berry II and Luke Maye will be critical.

Rated among the best in the country at their respective positions, Berry and Maye entered Tuesday’s game against No. 20 Clemson averaging a combined 35.6 points per game.

Yet it would be two other Tar Heels, Kenny Williams III and Cameron Johnson, who combined to do the damage that dropped the visiting Tigers to 0-59 all-time in Chapel Hill. North Carolina won 87-79, holding off a Clemson squad that shot 61.3 percent from the field in the second half due in large part to the work done in the first half.

While both Maye and Berry II were kept quiet in the first half, Williams (12 points) and Johnson (eight) combined to score 20 points in the stanza. Johnson would finish the game with 21 points, the most that the Pitt transfer has scored in a North Carolina uniform, and Williams would add 15 as Roy Williams’ team moved to 4-2 in ACC play.

Berry (17 points, four assists), Theo Pinson (12 points, seven rebounds, six assists) and Maye (11 points, four rebounds, five assists) all performed better in the second half, making it possible for the Tar Heels to hang on despite being challenged by a team that made ten of its first 11 second-half shots.

Williams and Johnson have proven themselves to be capable supplementary scorers this season, with the former averaging just over 12 points per game on the season and the latter at 9.7. But in the case of Johnson, following up his 2-for-10 effort in Saturday’s win over Notre Dame by shooting 7-for-10 from the field (6-for-9 3PT) is a needed bounce-back effort.

Prior to Tuesday night, Johnson reached double figures just once in the four games prior (14 vs. Boston College) and shot a combined 3-for-16 from three. Getting Johnson back on track is a big deal for North Carolina, and if his performance against Clemson can serve as a spark that would certainly bode well for the Tar Heels moving forward.

A productive Johnson affords Roy Williams the luxury of playing a “small” lineup in which Johnson mans the four and Maye the five. This North Carolina team isn’t like past editions in the Williams era, as many of those squads possessed the ability to have two “true” big men on the court at all times. With the big men lost from last year’s national title team, it’s been Maye carrying much of the load with freshmen Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley both looking to work their way into the fold.

A consistent Johnson not only makes North Carolina better, but it’s also a necessity given the team’s available options.

As for Clemson, this game felt like one of the program’s best chances to finally pick up that elusive win in Chapel Hill. Brad Brownell’s group entered the game with a 15-2 record, and with the improvements both in the post (Elijah Thomas) and on the perimeter (Marquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell) this is a group that has some staying power.

But Reed, Mitchell and forward Donte Grantham got off to frigid starts, combining to score two points on 0-for-13 shooting from the field in the first half. Despite the first-half efforts of Thomas the hole was too deep to climb out of, with Clemson pulling to within two on multiple occasions in the second half. Reed got hot in the second stanza, finishing the game with 21 points, and Mitchell would add 18 points to the effort.

Now 1-1 halfway through an important four-game stretch — Notre Dame next, followed by a trip to Charlottesville to take on No. 2 Virginia — when it comes to their NCAA tournament seeding prospects, Clemson paid the price for its inability to knock down shots in the early going. But in their comeback, the Tigers put forth a performance along the lines of what they’ve managed to do for much of this season to date.

Unfortunately for Clemson, its supplementary scorers were unable to match the production of Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams III.

Reed’s 24 leads No. 25 Clemson to OT win over Louisville

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Marcquise Reed scored 24 points and Elijah Thomas had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks to lead No. 25 Clemson to a 74-69 win over Louisville in overtime on Saturday.

The Tigers (14-1, 3-0 ACC) found their 3-point shot when it mattered, making five of their final seven shots behind the arc after starting the game 2 of 17 on 3s.

Clemson stayed in the game by forcing a season-worst 21 turnovers by the Cardinals — 15 on steals — and won it by hitting nine of 12 free throws at the end of overtime.

The Cardinals (11-4, 1-1) had a chance to win but turned the ball over with the game tied at 55 in the final 50 seconds. Then, after stealing it back, Quentin Snider missed an off-balance 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

The Tigers have won 10 in a row and their 3-0 ACC start is the best since 1997, when Clemson rose to No. 4 with a 5-0 league start that ended against a Wake Forest team led by Tim Duncan.

Ray Spaulding led Louisville with 16 points and 14 rebounds while limited to 29 minutes with foul trouble. Deng Adel added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Shelton Mitchell had 13 points, going 8-for-9 from the foul line and 2 of 13 on 3-pointers for the Tigers.

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals played good defense, holding Clemson to just 37 percent (25 of 68) shooting, but the turnovers killed them. It was only Louisville’s second loss in eight games against Clemson.

Clemson: This was Clemson’s first home game as a ranked opponent in eight years. Last season, this kind of game killed Clemson. Sixteen of the Tigers 33′ games were decided by six points or fewer, and they lost 12 of them. But this Clemson team is more confident and more physical. Many of those 15 steals by the Tigers were caused by them forcing themselves into Cardinals who were stepped up to catch passes.

UP NEXT

Louisville: The Cardinals play at No. 24 Florida State on Wednesday.

Clemson: The Tigers try to finish an early season sweep at North Carolina State on Thursday. Clemson beat the Wolfpack at home 78-62 on Dec. 30.

Grantham’s 23 points, 14 boards helps No. 25 Clemson beat BC

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BOSTON (AP) — Clemson came onto the court with a national ranking for the first time in nearly eight years and completely controlled Boston College in the opening half.

In the second, they made just enough plays to hold off the Eagles.

Donte Grantham scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Marcquise Reed hit two key free throws to help No. 25 Clemson beat Boston College 74-70 on Wednesday night.

“Our team just locked in defensively,” Grantham said. “Tonight, in the first half, it was special. When we get locked in like that, I don’t see too many teams beating us.”

Reed finished with 17 points for the Tigers (13-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). Clemson’s last time in the AP poll came on Jan. 23, 2010.

But the Tigers had to withstand an incredible shooting performance by BC’s Jerome Robinson in the second half. He went 10 for 14 from the field, hitting 6 of 9 from beyond the 3-point line.

“That’s why when you have a lead you need to keep building it because you never know when a guy can take over a game,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “Robinson had some unbelievable confidence. We couldn’t get him under control.”

Robinson led Boston College (10-5, 1-2) with 28 points, scoring 26 in the second half. Ky Bowman had 19 with nine rebounds and six assists.

Reed nailed his two from the line with 48 seconds left to move Clemson ahead 70-68. Robinson’s 3 from the right wing rimmed out on the next possession.

“I got some space and I was like: ‘I’m going to let it go,'” Robinson said. “I had already hit two or three from that spot and we needed that one and unfortunately it didn’t go.”

Gabe DeVoe and Shelton Mitchell each hit two from the line in the final 21 seconds for Clemson.

Bowman’s driving basket cut it to 68-66 with 2:19 to play, the third time BC sliced a big deficit to two points, before he tied it with two free throws with 1:02 left.

Trailing by 15 at halftime, the Eagles relied on a strong start by Robinson, a second team preseason all-ACC selection, after the break. The 6-foot-5 junior guard scored 19 points, including going 5-for-5 on 3-point attempts in the opening 10 minutes to slice the deficit to 53-50.

“We became who we are,” BC coach Jim Christian said. “In order to win in this league, you have to play more than 20 minutes.”

The Tigers had used a 16-0 run midway into the first half en route to their 38-23 halftime.

Grantham, who had a team-leading 11 points and nine rebounds in the half, scored eight straight points in the opening 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: The Tigers’ emergence in the poll may last a while. Entering the game, they had all five starters averaging double figures in scoring. … Won its sixth straight against BC.

Boston College: Facing their third consecutive ranked team looked like it took a lot out of the Eagles. They appeared flat at the start – something an average team can’t afford. After that, they showed they can compete – like in their win over then-No. 1 Duke in the league opener and a one-point loss at No. 8 Virginia on Saturday.

“We can’t take our eye off the prize,” Christian said. “We can’t have a 3-minute lull or a 4-minute lull like we had in the first half. You can’t dig those type holes.”

NICE NUMBERS

Grantham, a 6-8 senior forward, became the sixth player in school history with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists.

WEAK SHOWING

BC didn’t have an offensive rebound in the opening half, was outrebounded 20-10 overall and went over 5 minutes without a basket.

Eagles starting forward Nik Popovic picked up three fouls in 5 minutes in the half.

TWENTY SOMETHING

It was Robinson’s seventh game with 20 or more points.

UP NEXT

Clemson: Hosts Louisville on Saturday.

Boston College: Hosts Wake Forest on Saturday.

___

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Clemson lands three-star Class of 2018 guard John Newman

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Leave a comment

Clemson was able to land a commitment from three-star Class of 2018 shooting guard John Newman on Friday night.

The 6-foot-4 Newman selected the Tigers over his other finalists that included Providence, Virginia and Wake Forest. Newman is coming off of a solid spring with Team CP3 in the Nike EYBL and he also had a good showing at the NBPA Top 100 Camp last week at the University of Virginia.

An aggressive perimeter threat who can score or distribute, Newman can not only put up points in bunches but he’s also pretty efficient in terms of his shooting splits.

Newman put up 11.5 points per game at Top 100 Camp on 55 percent shooting and 53 percent three-point shooting as he looked like one of the more confident scorers in the camp.

The first commitment for Clemson in the Class of 2018, Newman is an important start for what could be a very big recruiting class for the Tigers.

No. 19 Florida State squeaks by Clemson, 76-74

(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton was glad to see his players smiling, laughing and celebrating a win on the road. It had not happened too often for the 19th-ranked Seminoles in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season.

“They were very, very happy in the locker room,” said a relieved Hamilton, whose team rallied after leading most of the way to defeat Clemson 76-74 on Saturday.

The Seminoles (23-6, 11-5) came into Littlejohn Coliseum just 2-5 on the road in league play, including losses in their past two such games, at Notre Dame and at Pittsburgh.

But Xavier Rathan-Mayes hit the go-ahead basket with 1:22 left and Florida State hung on.

“Knowing we can get down on the road and win in tough situations and play the way we did (today) is definitely optimistic for us,” said Rathan-Mayes, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half.

Jonathan Isaac of Florida State blocked Shelton Mitchell’s drive with 11 seconds left after Rathan-Mayes’ final hoop. After Trent Forrest made a free throw for the Seminoles, Marcquise Reed came up short on a mid-range jumper with 5 seconds to go as the Seminoles held on to win their 23rd game in the regular season for the first time since 2008-09.

Florida State kept pace in the Atlantic Coast Conference race, remaining two games behind league leader North Carolina entering the final week of the season.

“This is a very important win for us,” Hamilton said. “It keeps pace and gives us the opportunity to control our destiny.”

It was the latest in a string of near misses for Clemson (14-14, 4-12), which fell to 1-9 in ACC games decided by six points or less. The Tigers’ last five ACC losses came by a combined 12 points.

Florida State looked ready to stretch this one out after Forrest had a basket and two foul shots to put the Seminoles up 69-64 with 4:19 to go. But Jaron Blossomgame answered with a basket and Mitchell hit a 3-pointer to tie things once more.

Blossomgame finished with a game-high 24 points, his 12th game scoring 20 or more this season.

Isaac had 14 points and Dwayne Bacon added 12 for Florida State.

THE BIG PICTURE

Florida State: The Seminoles are one of the ACC’s best teams, but they struggle on the road, winning just two of their first seven games away from Tallahassee. They lost their past two on the road at Notre Dame and at Pitt before coming here. Florida State tapped into those struggles at Clemson, getting outscored 16-10 in the final 7 minutes of the opening half to lead just 38-37. The Seminoles were up on the Tigers 51-25 at halftime in their matchup three weeks ago at Florida State, a 109-61 victory.

Clemson: The Tigers have sought all ACC season for a signature win and put themselves in position to do it once more. Clemson hit 15 first-half free throws and shot 50 percent from the field. Still, it was not enough to keep from getting swept by Florida State for the first time in four seasons with another close defeat.

COLD BACON

Bacon, Florida State’s leading scorer, was kept beneath his season’s average of 16.8 points by the Tigers. Bacon went just 3 of 14 overall and 1 of 6 from 3-point range. It was the fifth time in the past six games that Bacon shot 40 percent or worse from the field.

DEMORALIZED TIGERS

Clemson’s run of almosts seems to have no end this season. Tigers center Sidy Djitte, who had 12 points and nine rebounds, said the team will fight off the disappointment and bounce back for whatever is left of the season. “If we’ve got two games, we’re going to keep fighting for two games,” he said.

UP NEXT

Florida State heads to No. 10 Duke on Tuesday night.

Clemson continues its home stand to end the regular season, facing North Carolina State on Wednesday night.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25