Tigers end skid to Gamecocks

Tigers end skid to Gamecocks

It hasn't been easy to be a Clemson fan in the state of South Carolina in recent years. Carolina has owned the rivalry for the better part of the last four years, but the Tigers finally got a taste of the upper hand after a 64-55 win over the Gamecocks Sunday afternoon at the Colonial Life Arena.

Sunday's game between South Carolina and Clemson was a battle of runs. In the end it was Clemson that had one more run than Carolina did as Clemson coach Brad Brownell beat Carolina for the first time as Clemson coach as the Tigers got a taste of what it's like to have the upper hand in a men's sport for quite a while. Clemson went on a 12-2 run early in the second half and withstood a late rally by Carolina to walk away with a 64-55 win to end a two-game losing streak to the Gamecocks.

"We continue to battle to find the personality of our team," head coach Frank Martin said. "It's hard to win against anybody when you continue to turn the ball over 20 times and you're inept on offense. When you try and score the basketball through individuality rather than team concepts, when you play good teams you shoot a low percentage and you turn it over. That's the unfortunate trap that we continue to fall into."

Foul trouble was the main story of the game as the two teams committed a combined 53 fouls and shot a combined 59 free throws. That's where the game was won as Clemson went 27-of-37 from the line and Carolina went 15-of-22 from the line. Carolina made on more field goal than the Tigers and one more three pointer than the Tigers.

"It's difficult because we got a lot of fouls called on us, but we have to do a better job of sitting down and playing defense and not reaching," Bruce Ellington said. "Of course it's going to be frustrating when the whistle isn't blowing your way, but we have to just play defense."

Clemson went on a 10-0 run early in the contest to take a 13-3 lead as Carolina went four minutes without scoring a point. Carolina would answer with a 20-5 run over the last 6:14 of the first half and three minutes into the second half to take a 31-28 lead.

"The first 10-12 minutes of the half we committed fouls because we were hesitant and planted our heels and played with no toughness," Martin said. "The last seven or eight minutes of the half without fouling very often. I actually went into the locker room as happy as I've been in a long time because I finally saw guys on the court playing with the discipline and tenacity that we're trying to teach. I think it's not surprise we were in the game, but I don't think we've learned how to do that for an extended period of time over the course of the game."

That lead would be short lived as the Tigers went on the final big run of the game, a 12-2 run to take control of the game and followed that up with a 7-1 run midway through the half to take a double-digit lead, a deficit that would prove too much to overcome by Carolina. South Carolina went 1-for-6 from the floor with five turnovers in the span of Clemson's first two runs.

"Bad offense," Martin said of the runs. "We couldn't make a pass from the point to the wing, and when we did pass guys wouldn't move and just stand and look. Give them credit. Offensive we were just inept early in the second half. Bad offense leads not just to missed shots and turnovers, but to breakaway baskets."

Brenton Williams and Ellington both agreed that communication is a key for an offense that committed 19 more turnovers Sunday and shot just 44% from the floor.

"You give me a team that loses and I will give you a team of mutes," Martin said. "You give me a team that wins and I will give you a team that never shuts up. That's the culture you have to have and that's a problem with our team right now."

Williams led the Gamecocks offensively with 16 points, tying Clemson's K.J. McDaniels for game-high honors, and Bruce Ellington and Mindaugas Kacinas also scored in double-figures with 12 and 10 points respectively.

South Carolina, 5-3 on the season, returns to action when they host Jacksonville Friday. Carolina will be looking to end its two game losing streak and find a way to play better as conference play is just a month away.

"There's a lot of behaviors that have to be changed and you don't change those like turning lights on and off," Martin said. "You learn that through experiences and teaching and learning. That's what we continue to search for and I think I saw a little bit today."

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