Mon, 17 Dec 2018
51
New Orleans

Coming off a trip to the Sweet 16 and boasting its first Top 25 ranking since 2009, the Clemson basketball team wanted to have fun this year -- especially its senior guards.

"We want to go out with a bang, really just have fun and just do everything we can to have another great year," Shelton Mitchell said, according to the (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.

So far, so good for the No. 19 Tigers (2-0), who have begun the season with two easy wins. They host Sam Houston State on Wednesday at Littlejohn Colosseum in Clemson, S.C.

"Going off of what (Mitchell) said, (I) just (want to) enjoy my senior season," Marcquise Reed, Mitchell's backcourt mate, told the paper. "Try to do all the right things on and off the court and just make it a fun time."

In their first game, the Tigers did the right things on offense, shooting almost 56 percent from the field and making 11 3-pointers in a 100-80 win over The Citadel.

On Saturday, it was the defense.

Clemson held North Carolina Central under 33 percent shooting, including 4-for-18 from deep, to beat the Eagles 71-51. The Tigers shut down N.C. Central in the first half, taking a 40-20 lead at the break.

Clemson's guards will focus on Sam Houston State's Cameron Delaney, who is averaging 17 points per game thus far.

Delaney didn't get enough help on Sunday as the Bearkats (2-1) came back from a 12-point halftime deficit, rallying to take a three-point lead midway through the second half, before promptly giving up a 13-2 run in a 76-69 loss to Louisiana Tech.

Sam Houston State has finished above .500 in each of the past six seasons, but hasn't made the NCAA Tournament.

After two early-season wins over Division III schools, head coach Jason Hooten is taking a team that includes seven newcomers on a tough road trip. After playing at Clemson, the Bearkats travel to face Georgia.

"We have to use that as a positive," Hooten said, according to The Item newspaper, of Huntsville, Texas. "My first year as a head coach, we did the same thing. We went to UTEP and we were there for like a week. We played a tournament and then we stayed and played UTEP. In all that time we were there, we had the chance to practice every day, and that helped us grow, come together as a team and bond a little bit. This group will need to do the same thing. We have seven new guys and a lot of things to learn."

Sam Houston State is not a very big team -- with just three players taller than 6-foot-6 -- so athleticism is a key, Oral Roberts transfer RJ Smith said.

"I think our biggest strength is how athletic and how quick we are," Smith, a 6-5 sophomore, said. "We're not the biggest team but we're more athletic than some teams."

Clemson will leave the state of South Carolina for the first time this season when it meets Akron in the Cayman Islands Classic on Monday.

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