GAME NOTES: A pair of teams off to 5-0 starts mix it up in the championship game of the 2013 Charleston Classic, as the Massachusetts Minuteman take on the Clemson Tigers.
UMass took down both Nebraska (96-90) and No. 19 New Mexico (81-65) to earn its place in this final bout, and the team began the campaign with wins over Boston College (86-73), LSU (92-90) and Youngstown State (85-69), all in the Bay State. The Minutemen operate out of the Atlantic 10 Conference, and they will tip off league play at home versus Saint Joseph's on Jan. 8, 2014.
Clemson punched its ticket to today's title tilt by upending both Temple (72-58) and Davidson (85-54) in the first two rounds, and before that the team recorded wins over Stetson (71-51), Delaware State (58-37) and bitter rival South Carolina (71-57), all at home. Following this clash, the Tigers, who are hoping to make some noise in the vaunted ACC this season, return home to play three of their next four, and they will lift the lid on their league schedule at Boston College on Jan. 4, 2014.
Clemson won the only previous meeting between these two teams, taking an 86-72 decision in the semifinals of the 1984 Music City Invitational in Nashville.
UMass trailed New Mexico by five just past the midway point of the opening half, but went on a lengthy run as the intermission approached, and then another near the tail end of the game to earn the upset victory. Raphiael Putney scored 20 points, Chaz Williams added 19 and Cady Lalanne logged a double-double consisting of 12 points and 14 rebounds to pace the Minutemen, who drained 7-of-17 3-point attempts, outscored the Lobos in the paint (46-26), and scored 21 points off of 18 UNM turnovers. Sampson Carter and Derrick Gordon both tallied 11 points in the victory.
UMass is averaging a robust 88 ppg in hitting 48.7 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 39.4 percent showing from beyond the arc, while allowing 77.4 ppg to opponents who are shooting just 41.4 percent from the floor and 29.4 percent from downtown. All five starters are averaging double figures in the scoring column, with Williams leading the way at 18.4 ppg. Lalanne is putting up a nightly double-double with 16.6 points and 11.2 caroms per contest.
Clemson got impressive performances from K.J. McDaniels and Damarcus Harrison, the duo combining for 42 points on the strength of six 3-pointers and a 16- of-19 shooting effort overall, as the team beat Davidson by 31 points on Friday. Collectively, the Tigers made good on 61.1 percent of their total shots, which included a 10-of-19 showing from beyond the arc, and they got 24 points from their bench while being credited with a rebounding edge of 36-23. The Wildcats struggled from both long range (6-of-21) and the foul line (2- of-11).
McDaniels (18.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) continues to pace Clemson in both scoring and rebounding, while Rod Hall (10.8 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Jordan Roper (10.4 ppg, 3.6 apg) round out the unit's double-digit scorers heading into this contest. As a team, the Tigers are putting up 71.4 ppg in hitting 47.3 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a 39.3 percent effort from 3-point range. But where they really earn their keep is at the defensive end, as foes are permitted only 51.4 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .339 overall, .212 from beyond the arc, and .622 at the charity stripe. The team is also +7.2 in rebounding margin.
Something has to give as these two undefeated teams square off, and the hope is it will be a close, hard-fought game until the final second ticks off the clock. Expect both to trade blows throughout, but for the Tigers to prevail as they come up with more than a few crucial stops.
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