Check below for game stories from all the ACC basketball action on Saturday. While we’re in non-conference play, stories will be listed in alphabetical order, by which ACC team is involved.
Clemson Dominates Furman 71-35
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – It hasn’t been the easiest few months for Clemson sophomore guard Jordan Roper. Following a solid freshman season, Roper received a major scare over the summer when he suffered what coach Brad Brownell termed a “mini-stroke” which forced tests and, according to Brownell, “questions about how he was going to be.”
And after a solid start to the 2013-14 season, Roper suffered a concussion against UMass in the Charleston Classic finals that sidelined him for a game and hampered his offensive rhythm when he returned.
Roper broke out Saturday night, scoring a season-high 16 points in Clemson’s 71-35 rout of Furman. Clemson never looked back following a 17-0 first-half run keyed by Roper.
The Tigers improved to 8-2 on the season, while Furman fell to 4-6.
“There was some concern,” Brownell said of Roper. “He had a tough offseason, dealt with a couple things and hasn’t been as smooth as everyone would like. At times, he thinks about things that have bothered him, but he’s doing fine now, which is good.”
The Paladins shot just 30.2 percent from the field and their 35 points was the lowest by an opponent in coach Brad Brownell’s four-year tenure at Clemson.
“We really pride ourselves on defense. It’s part of our identity,” Roper said. “Coach Brownell’s philosophy. We’re a hard-nosed defensive team and we really stress defense each game.”
Brownell joked that such a philosophy needs encouragement, saying, “You don’t see many guys in their free time working on defensive slides and jump balls.” But his team has bought in.
“Our guys understand that’s important, it’s what we do to be successful,” he said. “It gives you identity. I think good teams have that.”
Devin Coleman and K.J. McDaniels each scored 12 points for Clemson. Kendrec Ferrara led Furman with 10 points.
Clemson travels to Auburn on Thursday, while Furman plays host to Liberty on Friday.
Clemson rolled into halftime with a 38-19 lead. The Tigers led 21-17 with 6:51 left, but finished the half on a 17-2 run sparked by Roper. With Clemson up 26-17, Roper nailed back-to-back 3-pointers and added a driving layup, scoring eight consecutive points for a 34-17 edge.
He broke out of a shooting slump that began after he suffered the concussion. He missed a game against Coastal Carolina and combined to hit just two of his next nine shots against South Carolina State and Arkansas.
“I’ve been trying to put up a bunch of shots, get in the flow of the game since I had the concussion, and those shots helped us,” Roper said. “When anybody makes a shot for us, it builds the enthusiasm, it builds the momentum.”
The Tigers won their 30th consecutive game over Furman, dating back to the 1978-79 season. The Paladins are struggling under first-year coach Niko Medved and entered Saturdaycoming off a 97-93 home loss to Division II Mars Hill.
As usual, defense served as a foundation for Clemson’s success. The Tigers came into the game tops nationally in scoring defense, allowing 53.6 points per game, and tops in field goal percentage, yielding 35 percent. But with just over 8 minutes left in the half, the Paladins were shooting 50 percent from the field and trailed only 21-17.
They missed their next eight shots and committed three turnovers. Only Stephen Croone’s layup with 1 second left in the half broke the drought.
“We hung with them for a while and then we got stagnant, tried to play a little too much one-on-one, didn’t take care of the ball,” Medved said. “That fueled their transition. I think we’ll learn a lot from this game, I really do. This isn’t the first team they’ve done this to.”
Clemson extended its lead after halftime. A pair of dunks by McDaniels – the first a one-hand alley-oop slam, the second a windmill slam off an open-court steal – pushed the margin to 63-28 with 7:12 to play.
Furman shot just 23.8 percent for the second half and 30.2 percent for the game. Clemson finished the game shooting 50 percent and 50 percent in the second half.
“It’s just being more aggressive than we were,” McDaniels said. “I feel like we were a little bit too passive in the first half. We had to get it together in the locker room, came back down and take care of business.”
The Tigers also owned a sizable edge in rebounds (37-23) and points in the paint (36-18).
Clemson lost only two seniors from last season’s 13-18 team, and Roper says defense has been a major factor in his team’s improvement.
“Guys are more experienced and we’re in better position defensively,” he said. “One of the main things we wanted to emphasize tonight was deflections. The past few games, we haven’t been getting that many deflections. You want to get steals and blocks and tipped passes. Just have more activity defensively.”
Layman Key As Maryland Nips Florida Atlantic 66-62
Layman scored 22 points, including a big 3-pointer in the final 37 seconds, to help the Terrapins hold off a late rally by Florida Atlantic in a 66-62 victory.
Shaquille Cleare, Dez Wells and Charles Mitchell each scored 10 points for Maryland (7-4).
“I think shots were falling,” said Layman, who was also 4-of-7 from 3-point range. “We did great on offense and moving the ball around against their zone. They were making shots too. They’re a good team and we just played through the adversity.”
Florida Atlantic guard Pablo Bertone, who entered the game averaging 20 points, finished with 21. Marquan Botley added 18 points for the Owls (3-8)
After opening an early 13-point lead midway through the first half, Maryland led just 33-31 at the break. A jumper by Mitchell extended the lead to 42-34 lead with 16:42 left in the game.
However, Florida Atlantic would not go away and Bertone scored eight points to pull the Owls to within four with just over five minutes remaining. After a layup by Layman, Bertone was fouled while converting a layup and his ensuing free throw cut the margin to 3 with 1:30 left.
Maryland then held possession and a 3-pointer by Layman with 37 seconds remaining sealed the game.
“I’ve seen Jake make a lot of big shots,” Turgeon said. “He had three, (3-pointers) in the second half. They were all big for us.”
Florida Atlantic missed its first six shots, allowing the Terps to open a 13-4 lead with 13:27 left in the first half. A steal and ensuing layup by Roddy Peters later increased Maryland’s lead to 22-9 with 9:20 remaining.
One of the main differences in the game was Maryland’s bench, which outscored Florida A&M, 18-8.
“I think we were tense because this team loves to win,” Cleare said. “Coach is the same way. If he’s tense, we’re going to be tense. We just want to win at the end of the day.”
The Owls finally settled down and a putback by Kelvin Penn cut the margin to 6 with 5:23 left. After a pair of Maryland turnovers, Florida Atlantic stayed to within two points at the half on a pair of 3-pointers by Bertone and Botley.
“I thought Florida Atlantic played great,” Turgeon said. “I think they’re better than their record and they’ve had to play a lot of games like this on the road. You can see there is a lot of fight in their team. They made a lot of shots.”
The Terps shot just 35.3 percent (12-for-34) in the opening half.
“We got a great experience,” Owls coach Mike Jarvis said. “We came to one of the premier schools in the country and gave them all they can handle. We scared them. At times, we played pretty good basketball.”
No. 18 North Carolina beats No. 11 Kentucky 82-77
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – Short-handed again in a tight – and often ugly – contest, Marcus Paige and North Carolina proved they’re tough enough to fight their way to another marquee nonconference victory.
As for Kentucky, coach John Calipari is still waiting for his Wildcats to grow up.
Paige scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half and James Michael McAdoo had 20 points, helping the 18th-ranked Tar Heels beat the 11th-ranked Wildcats 82-77 on Saturday.
It wasn’t always pretty for the Tar Heels (7-2), from 19 missed free throws to seeing the Wildcats swat seven of their shots. Yet they managed to add another big name to their early wins against then-No. 1 Michigan State and then-No. 3 Louisville – all coming while top scorer P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald sit out due to NCAA eligibility concerns.
“I think especially after getting the two big games earlier in the year, we had more confidence and belief we could get this one done,” Paige said. “But at the same time, it’s not a game everyone in the room would pick us to win. We had to come out with the mentality that we’ve got to play hard and be the aggressor and let the chips fall from there.”
Yes, the Tar Heels have confounded Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams by also losing at home to Belmont and following the Louisville win with a loss at UAB. But one thing is certain: This bunch shows up in its biggest games.
J.P. Tokoto added 15 points for the Tar Heels, who shot 57 percent after halftime and scored 20 points off turnovers to finally wrestle control of a foul-filled game away from the Wildcats (8-3).
“I feel like with our team this year, mentally we’re there and have built up that mentality that we’re going to keep fighting, go to the next play and not worry about the last play,” Tokoto said.
When it comes to the Wildcats, Calipari wants to see more from a team built around the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class.
The Wildcats dominated the boards, scored 19 second-chance points and hit 29 of 43 free throws in a game with 56 personal fouls. But with star rookie Julius Randle struggling, Kentucky shot 41 percent and committed 17 turnovers while trailing for most of the second half in its first true road game this year.
Its two losses had come on neutral courts to ranked opponents, Michigan State in the Champions Classic last month and Baylor in last week’s SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
“What we are right now is we’re not a good basketball team,” Calipari said. “And we’re not a good team because our emotion is all based on our individual play instead of our team play. … Our stuff is all based on ‘Did I miss a free throw, did I get beat on the dribble, did I miss a shot, did I turn it over?’
“We’ve got to get through this. But we had chances to let go of the rope, and we didn’t. We are what we are right now. We’ve got a long way to go.”
UNC’s 82 points and 48 percent shooting were the most by a Kentucky opponent all season. The Tar Heels also shot 45 free throws, with an aggressive McAdoo getting to the line 19 times while also leading the defensive effort on Randle.
“They came right after us,” Calipari said. “Where we looked like, ‘OK, we’re ready to get away from them,’ they came right back. … They just kept fighting. I thought McAdoo just absolutely killed us.”
Freshman Aaron Harrison scored 20 for Kentucky, but Randle finished with 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting while battling foul trouble. He also had five rebounds.
Paige managed just two points in the opening half, coming on free throws when referee Roger Ayers whistled Calipari for a technical foul with 1.9 seconds left. But Paige provided the steadying hand North Carolina desperately needed after halftime.
He knocked down a contested 3 over Randle to give UNC a 60-54 lead with 8:17 left, and then came up with an even bigger shot when he lofted a floater over shot blocker Willie Cauley-Stein with the shot clock winding down for a 70-65 lead with 1:41 to go.
Paige added an alley-oop pass in transition to Brice Johnson for a dunk, and then closed his afternoon by knocking down two free throws with 6 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.
Warren, Turner lead NC State past Detroit, 82-79
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – T.J. Warren had yet another big night. Ralston Turner came up with his most productive game in a North Carolina State uniform.
And the Wolfpack needed almost every last one of their points to hold off pesky Detroit.
Warren scored 29 points and N.C. State hung on to beat the Titans 82-79 Saturday night for its fifth straight win.
Turner, a transfer from LSU, added a season-high 21 points for the Wolfpack (7-2) and hit six of their season-high 10 3-pointers.
N.C. State never trailed and shot 50 percent but allowed nearly all of an 18-point lead to slip away.
“(Detroit) just made big shots down at the end,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “We need to find a way, when we’re up 15, 13 points, to keep it there and extend it and not allow a team to get back in the game.”
Juwan Howard Jr. had 24 points and Evan Bruinsma added 16 for Detroit (5-6).
Ugochukwu Njoku scored 11 points for Detroit, which made it a one-possession game in the final 30 seconds – closing to 81-79 on Matthew Grant’s 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left.
“We got the effort,” Detroit coach Ray McCallum said. “We got the balls and the hustle plays and just got a lot of production from everybody.”
Warren hit a free throw with 5.9 seconds left. Detroit got a good look on its final possession but Jarod Williams’ deep 3 bounced off the iron as the buzzer sounded.
“I can make that shot,” said Williams, who finished with 10 points. “It was a good look. I should have made it.”
Warren has led or shared the scoring lead in every game but one for N.C. State, which improved to 13-0 in the school’s annual heritage games at its former home – on-campus Reynolds Coliseum.
And it looked like Turner had put N.C. State in complete control after he scored on three consecutive trips down court against Detroit’s zone to give the Wolfpack their largest lead.
“You know they’re capable. It’s just a matter of time,” McCallum said. “We had Turner identified, but we were slow to react. Give him credit. He got going, and his teammates did a good job of finding him.”
He hit two 3s before a jumper with just under 8 minutes left made it 65-47.
“Anytime you’re making 3-pointers, it spreads out the defense and gives other guys opportunities to make plays,” Turner said.
But the Titans wouldn’t go away.
Howard scored eight points in the final five minutes, hitting a big 3 with 4½ minutes left before his drive with 3 minutes remaining pulled Detroit within single digits at 72-64.
His uncontested 3 from the top of the key with just under 2 minutes to play cut the lead to 74-69.
“That was just hard work paying off,” Howard said. “I work on those shots every day. I just have to knock them down every night.”
Bruinsma’s layup with 48.7 seconds remaining made it 77-73, and his 3 with 29.1 seconds left pulled the Titans to 79-76.
Turner’s free throw with 27.7 seconds remaining made it a four-point game. After Detroit’s Carlton Brundidge was called for walking with 19.4 seconds left, Desmond Lee hit a free throw to extend the N.C. State lead to 81-76.
And then Grant’s big 3 made things even tenser.
“We didn’t get stops down the stretch,” Gottfried said. “They’re a pretty crafty team and they take the ball to the basket well.”
Notre Dame holds off hard-charging Hoosiers 79-72
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The difference between Notre Dame and Indiana came down to experience.
Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton did just enough to keep the Fighting Irish in control of the Crossroads Classic opener. Indiana’s youngsters struggled to dissect the steadier, savvier Fighting Irish all afternoon.
Grant, a senior, finished with 23 points and nine assists and Connaughton, a junior, scored all 14 of his points in the second half, leading the Fighting Irish past longtime in-state rival Indiana 79-72.
“We do have an experienced nucleus that has played together and won together before in these atmospheres,” coach Mike Brey said. “I’m not surprised. These old guys have been in a lot of battles like this.”
That meant a lot Saturday.
The Irish (8-3) started fast and seized control, got two of Indiana’s top rebounders into early foul trouble and fended off every challenge the Hoosiers (8-3) posed in the second half when the old standbys – Grant and Connaughton – combined for 24 of Notre Dame’s 32 points.
They were a combined 10 of 21 from the field, 5 of 9 on 3-pointers and 16 of 17 from the free-throw line against one of the nation’s best defenses.
Notre Dame shot 46.3 percent from the field as a team and even though Indiana held a 36-33 rebounding edge, the Irish played well enough inside to nullify what was expected to be a big advantage for Indiana. And when the Irish needed a late play, they urged Brey to run a play for Eric Atkins and executed the curl and pass perfectly for an easy layup to make it 73-69 with 1:21 to play.
“We hadn’t run it all day,” Brey said of the play. “That’s their feel for the game.”
The young Hoosiers, in contrast, were not themselves.
After going 1-1 in two other uncharacteristic games at Madison Square Garden three weeks ago, the Hoosiers again struggled inside an NBA arena.
Indiana’s four most experienced players all had big days. Will Sheehey tied his career-high with 22 points, Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had 13 points and five steals, Evan Gordon scored 11 points off the bench and Jeremy Hollowell matched his career-best with seven assists.
Their less experienced teammates, however, struggled. The Hoosiers shot just 41.3 percent from the field, were 7 of 20 on 3s and had nearly as many turnovers (13) as assists (15) as they fell to 1-3 against power-conference schools this season. Heck, Indiana only tied the score twice, both early in the second half, and never led.
To coach Tom Crean, the reason was obvious.
“It was just a little bit too bright in there today for our young team to really step up to the task that we had with a bunch of veterans,” Crean said after losing for the second straight year in the Classic.
It was a tough day for Indiana, which fell behind right away.
After falling into a 35-22 hole with 6:20 left in the first half, the Hoosiers spent the rest of the day trying to dig out. They almost did.
Indiana closed the half on an 8-3 run to get within 47-42 at halftime, then opened the second half with Gordon’s 3-pointer and Ferrell’s 11-foot jumper to finally tie the score at 47.
Grant answered with two free throws for the Irish, Noah Vonleh tied it again on a dunk for Indiana and then Connaughton broke the tie with a 3 for his first basket of the game with 16:40to play. Indiana never got even again.
“We made a bunch of runs, we could just never get all the way over the hump,” Crean said. “Whether it was a missed shot, whether it was a missed play defensively.”
Connaughton turned the game again by scoring eight of his points during a 12-4 spurt, which included another 3 from Connaughton to make it 59-51 with 12:38 to go.
Indiana rallied with seven straight points to make it 59-58.
But Notre Dame’s defense buckled down and the Irish finally put it away with two layups and four free throws in the final 81 seconds.
“One thing about our veteran perimeter guys, they figure, over time, what a defense is going to give them because they’ve played so much together and they kind of picked their spots,” Brey said. “They’re telling me sets that they want to run in the second half. And it was their idea to run that one there when Atkins got the layup.”
Pittsburgh secures a 91-73 win over Youngstown St.
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Kendrick Perry was the latest of a series of talented guards to play against Pitt and score more than 20 points. But in each game, Pitt won, as the Panthers beat Perry’s Youngstown State 91-73.
Perry scored 28 points against the Panthers, the highest single-game scoring performance against Pitt (10-0) by an opposing player this year, but didn’t factor into the game’s outcome.
“I’d be much happier if I scored 8 points and we got a win,” Perry said.
There was a pre-existing level of familiarity between Perry and some of Pitt’s players – he played with some Panthers in Pittsburgh Basketball Club’s Greentree Summer League the past two summers. In Greentree, players like Pitt point guard James Robinson learned about Perry’s game, which prepared Robinson and Pitt to defend him.
“We knew he was going to be aggressive,” Robinson said. “Obviously we didn’t do that good of a job on him, but we were still fortunate enough to come out with the win.”
Between each of the three games featuring excellent opposing guards, the Panthers have been able to hold teams and players below their scoring average.
“We just want to play help, play good team defense and contain the other guys,” freshman Josh Newkirk said. “We want to stop their main scorer, but if he gets his then we just make sure the other people stay under their averages.”
The Penguins’ point total of 73 ultimately became the highest total Pitt allowed this season in a game, but Kamren Belin was the only other Penguin to reach double-figures with his 13 points after an inefficient 12 shot attempts.
But Robinson doesn’t like to think about it that way.
“The game’s up in the air when you let someone go off like that,” Robinson said.
After Pitt allowed Penn State’s Tim Frazier to score 27 points and Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland to put up 20, head coach Jamie Dixon pondered aloud if his players take as much pride in stopping the opposing team’s best scorer as he does. Robinson denies the notion.
“I think we take as much pride in that as he does,” Robinson said. “Obviously it hasn’t shown in the last three games, but we take pride in our defense and as individuals.”
Perry scored his team’s first seven points and kept the Penguins (7-5) in the game. With 11 minutes left in the first half, Perry had nine points and his team only trailed 18-14.
But Pitt pulled away to take an 11-point lead into halftime, and began the second half on a 7-0 run to put the game out of Perry’s reach.
A good portion of Perry’s points came in the transition game, where he capitalized on his speed and Pitt turnovers to get easy lay-ups on fast breaks.
The ability of players like Frazier, Ireland, and now Perry to score from the perimeter reveals to Robinson a need for Pitt to get better defensively not just to win games, but keep the Panthers pride on defense intact.
“We kind of look at it as like, he can walk around and go say he dropped 28 on Pitt,” Robinson said. “While that’s good for him, it kind of looks bad on us so as individuals and a team we’re going to have to really improve.”
Then again, as Dixon believes, his team can win despite a scoring barrage from any player.
“We’re not doing things to stop one guy,” Dixon said. “We don’t think one guy can beat us.”