Grantham, Mitchell lift Clemson over Samford 81-59
By BRAD SENKIW
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Donte Grantham scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half to lead the Tigers to an 81-59 victory over Samford on Saturday.
The Tigers (8-1), who shot 42 percent in the game, matched their longest winning streak of the season at four games and are off to their best start since the 2008-09 season.
"I'm pleased with the way our guys are handling their business. We're approaching things very well," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "I'm excited with how this group has been coachable. We'll see where we go now."
Samford (2-8) outshot Clemson at 45 percent from the floor and led early in the second half before getting outscored 34-11 in the final 13 minutes.
Justin Coleman led the Bulldogs with 17 points and Demetrius Denzel-Dyson added 12. Samford lost the turnover battle 22-9, and Clemson scored 22 points off of those mistakes.
"We started off slow, but that's a real good team," said Thomas, who added 11 rebounds to record his third double-double of the season. "We have to match their energy."
The Tigers overcame a rough night of shooting from behind the arc. Seven of Clemson's first eight shots were 3-pointers, with only one falling. The Tigers shot 4 of 20 from behind the arc and made seven field goals in the first half. They finished 9 of 36 on 3-pointers.
Samford confused the Tigers with a zone defense that forced Clemson to take so many long shots.
"They were playing packed in a zone and we missed a million shots," Brownell said. "That's not easy to coach or fix or play. We just had to stick with it."
The Tigers, who led 35-30 at halftime, were able to eventually wear the Bulldogs down with their defense and transition offense in the second half.
Samford opened the second half with a 12-3 run and took its first lead since the 11:13 mark of the first half with a 3-pointer by Denzel-Dyson four minutes into the second half, forcing Brownell to have a heart-to-heart with his team.
"It was the first time in a while I really had to get after them a little bit," Brownell said. "The game is not always easy. You better go figure out another way (to win) than just making shots."
The teams traded baskets and the lead for the next three minutes, but Clemson went on an 8-0 run to go up 55-48 on a DeVoe 3-pointer. The Tigers eventually pushed their lead to double digits on a layup by Mitchell with 6:38 to play.
Clemson extended that run to 19-2 to go up 74-55 with 3:20 remaining and cruise to victory the rest of the way.
"All of us were kind of down because we felt like we were missing easy shots," Mitchell said. "That negative energy kind of messed up our team defensively. Once we hit a couple shots and coach got on to us, we got our rhythm."
Samford: The Bulldogs, who were picked to finish second in the Southern Conference, wrapped up their games against teams from major conferences on Saturday. They lost to Arkansas and LSU by an average of 29 points before the 22-point loss at Clemson.
Clemson: The Tigers came into the game playing their best basketball of the season and raised their overall confidence with consecutive routs over Ohio State and UNC Asheville in part to improved defense and chemistry from last year, when they missed the NCAA tournament.
STAT OF THE DAY
Clemson's three points from its bench is the fewest of the 2017-18 season. Coming into Saturday, the non-starters combined to score as many as 38 in a game this season and as few as seven. A.J. Oliver hit a first-half 3-pointer as the Clemson bench was 1 of 4 from the field.
Samford hosts Thomas University on Friday.
Clemson takes on No. 5 Florida in the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday in Sunrise, Florida.
Updated December 9, 2017