CHARLESTON, S.C. — Clemson always feels at home at the Charleston Classic. The Tigers proved that again in reaching the tournament finals for a third time Friday night.
Donte Grantham tied his career high with 22 points and Marcquise Reed added 16 points and a career-best nine 11 rebounds in 78-59 victory over Hofstra on Friday night.
The Tigers improved to 4-0 for the first time since the 2013-14 season, which was also their last played in the eight-team tournament here and fell to UMass in the finals. Clemson won the tournament in 2008, defeating Temple — the very same Owls it will face Sunday night with the title on the line.
“We like playing here. It’s a great venue. Our guys are comfortable,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We play good basketball here.”
The Tigers did against the Pride.
Grantham, the 6-foot-8 senior, hit nine of 12 shots including three 3-pointers to help Clemson put away its Colonial Athletic Association opponent. Hofstra trailed just 30-28 on Eli Pemberton’s basket with 3:22 to go in the opening half. That’s when the Tigers took off on a 12-4 run the rest of the period to take a 42-32 lead into the break. Reed scored seven straight points and Grantham closed the surge with a three and a rim-rattling jam.
Hofstra (3-1) cut things to 48-42 on Pemberton’s three before Reed and Grantham led another charge. Reed started with a basket, then Grantham scored five points. When Reed hit another jumper, the Tigers led 57-42 and gradually grew the lead to 20 points.
The Tigers opened a 16-point lead against Ohio in the tournament opener Thursday night before holding on to win 81-76. Grantham said it was their focus not to let that happen in this one.
“We have to learn from our mistakes,” Grantham said. “Not for now, but for further on down the season, just staying locked in, having defensive discipline and not letting your foot off the gas pedal.”
Grantham matched his best scoring performance, which he set as a sophomore against Texas-San Antonio in November 2015 then equaled later that same month against Rutgers.
Reed nearly doubled his previous rebounding best of six boards accomplished twice, the last time in a win last year over UNC Wilmington. Reed also led the Tigers with six assists.
Justin Wright-Foreman led Hofstra with 20 points, including four of its six 3-pointers.
THE BIG PICTURE
Clemson: The Tigers aren’t shy about shooting. They’ve attempted 45 3-pointers in their past two games in the Charleston Classic, more than a Brownell-coached team will put up. Brownell has said the team has offensive skills and hopes add more consistent defense to the picture.
Hofstra: The Pride have active, dynamic guards in Wright-Foreman and Pemberton who will help them compete strongly in the Colonial Athletic Association later this season. However, Hofstra’s smaller lineup could not stand up for long against Clemson’s inside game. Hofstra had five shots blocked in the opening half, two by Tigers guard Gabe DeVoe.
Clemson guard Marcquise Reed had the assignment of slowing down Hofstra’s Wright-Foreman. And while Wright-Foreman had 20 points, it came on 8-of-19 shooting where most every shot had Reed close by. “I thought Marcquise did a phenomenal job,” Brownell said.
GOOD THINGS AHEAD
Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said while he was disappointed with his team’s offense against Clemson, he has been pleased with what he’s seen in the Charleston Classic. The Pride defeated Dayton in the opener and played with the Tigers of the Atlantic Coast Conference for most of the opening half. “I like our team, I really do,” Mihalich said. “I tell you what, over the last 11 minutes Clemson only scored 14 points. We had some good stretches in there, but we just had a couple of bad ones.”
Clemson will play Temple for the Charleston Classic championship on Sunday night
Hofstra will play Auburn for third place in the Charleston Classic on Sunday night.
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