CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson’s Elijah Thomas is like most everyone else out there — he’s waiting to see more before fully believing in the Tigers’ strong start.

Clemson (12-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) continued its best start in nine years and won its eighth consecutive game with a 78-62 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday. Thomas, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, accepts that all Tiger fans and those in college basketball are reserving judgment on the Tigers’ start.

“Last year we had a similar record and we kind of dropped the ball in conference,” Thomas said. “We’re not worried about the attention we get.”

The Tigers will get more and more if they keep playing like this.

Marcquise Reed scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and led all five starters in double figures. It is their best start under coach Brad Brownell and best since opening 16-0 in 2008-09.

Brownell likes his team and thinks it will continue to gel.

“We’re playing well, but I thought we were playing well last year,” he said. “I don’t know. We’ll see.”

Clemson took control with defense, overcoming sluggish early shooting and a strong start by the Wolfpack (10-4, 0-1).

North Carolina State took its biggest lead, 16-10, on Torin Dorn’s jumper with 9:18 to go. That’s when the Tigers closed the half with a 23-8 surge to move in front for good. Grantham got the run started with a 3-pointer and closed it by collecting Gabe DeVoe’s missed shot and throwing up a shot just before the buzzer sounded to put Clemson ahead 33-24.

The Wolfpack had problems with Clemson’s defense in the critical stretch, going 1 of 10 from the field with three of their seven first-half turnovers.

North Carolina State cut an 11-point lead to six on Braxton Beverly’s jumper and 3-pointer early in the second half. But the Tigers gradually stretched the lead out to 19 points to stay comfortably ahead the rest of the way.

“We had a lot of positives and negatives,” Wolfpack forward Lennard Freeman said. “We’ve just got to play smarter.”

DeVoe added 15 points for the Tigers. Thomas had his fourth double-double of the season.

Beverly had 15 points to lead the Wolfpack. Allerik Freeman, the team’s leading scorer coming in, had 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina State: The Wolfpack were coming off a record-setting show with a 116-64 blowout of Jacksonville to end pre-ACC play. They followed that with their second-fewest first-half points this season, notching one more than the 23 scored in a loss to Tennessee on Nov. 24. North Carolina State will have to find its offense if it hopes to stay competitive in the league this season.

Clemson: The Tigers have prided themselves on defense for most of coach Brad Brownell’s eight seasons, yet struggled at that most of the time in ACC play last season and finished ninth in the league in total defense. Clemson entered conference play third among ACC teams behind Virginia and Miami and played to that level by holding the Wolfpack to 34.8 percent shooting (23 of 66), their second-poorest showing of the season.

COOLING OFF

The Wolfpack didn’t figure to hit 19 3s like they did against Jacksonville in the ACC opener. But they did expect to shoot better than 5 of 22 from behind the arc. First-year coach Kevin Keatts said his team is a mix of veterans and newcomers and if they don’t shoot well, they will struggle in ACC play.

DEBUT

North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts said he did not get caught up in his debut ACC game as a first-year coach. He is thrilled to be coaching in the ACC, but says he’s been through so much in his career that he did not see this as a different game than the rest of his career. “I didn’t think of the awe of it,” he said, smiling.

UP NEXT

North Carolina State heads to Notre Dame on Wednesday night.

Clemson travels to Boston College on Wednesday night.


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