No. 16 Clemson escapes Akron, faces Georgia next
Clemson on Monday had its first close call of the young season.
Next up: The Tigers get their biggest test yet.
No. 16 Clemson will face Georgia on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Cayman Islands Classic.
The Tigers (4-0) built a 15-point second-half lead against Akron before the Zips found their shooting touch from deep and cut Clemson's lead to four in the final five minutes.
But the Tigers' Marcquise Reed scored five straight points and Shelton Mitchell made two free throws to put it out of reach as Clemson held off Akron 72-69.
Reed, the Tigers' leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, and Mitchell combined for 38 in the win.
"I really like the way our guards have been playing," Brownell said of Reed and Mitchell. "They're very experienced guys who have been in a lot of big games for us."
Georgia (3-1) had no such drama with its first-round opponent, Illinois State.
The Bulldogs raced to a 16-2 lead, led by as many as 24 in the first half and cruised to an 80-68 win over the Redbirds.
Sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds scored a career-high 31 points to lead Georgia.
The Bulldogs had just three steals and four blocked shots but held but held Illinois State to 37.5 percent shooting.
Georgia coach Tom Crean has been looking for more intensity from his defense and said he wants his team to use its length.
"We don't use it consistently well, and we've got to do that," he told The Red & Black website. "It's not just creating the deflections, getting the steals, getting the blocked shots. It's distorting the view, it's challenging the shots, it's not giving a free look at the rim, it's defending the post up better by putting more ball pressure on them."
Against Clemson, that will mean focusing on Reed and Mitchell, who account for more than 30 points and seven assists a game.
"You want your team to play pressure defense and be active," Crean said "You can't stand there and just be passive and watch it as a coach. I never have. I want to have fun too, man. I know it's my job, but I want to have fun."
The Bulldogs entered the tournament with wins over Savannah State (110-76) and Sam Houston State (75-64) sandwiching an 81-77 loss to Temple in Crean's first three games as Georgia coach.
Clemson also played Sam Houston State earlier this month, beating the Bearkats 74-59.
Updated November 19, 2018