CLEMSON — For Clemson coach Brad Brownell, Devin Coleman’s offensive struggles were “mind-boggling.”
The Tigers’ sophomore shooting guard struggled in his return from a redshirt season to rehab a torn Achilles tendon, so much so that Brownell wondered if Coleman would make another shot in practice.
Coleman is putting those worries in the past, and his Clemson teammates are benefiting.
Coleman made the most of his first career start Tuesday, scoring a career-high 16 points as Clemson overcame early sluggishness for a 65-49 win against South Carolina State.
After failing to score in Clemson’s first five games, it was Coleman’s third consecutive game in double figures.
“Everyone wants to play,” Coleman said. “If I got minutes, I went out there and I wasn’t producing or playing hard, it wouldn’t mean anything. If I play hard and more minutes come with it, great. If Coach feels someone else is better for the job that night, that’s fine with me, as long as we go out there and get us a win.”
Clemson improved to 7-1, while South Carolina State fell to 2-6. Landry Nnoko had his second career double-double for the Tigers with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Devin Joint paced the Bulldogs with 9 points and 7 rebounds.
Brownell said Coleman has “played well and practiced well” to earn playing time.
“We just wanted to give him an opportunity,” Brownell said. “I know it’s a big surprise to you guys because he wasn’t playing a lot. I have never said he was out, and tonight we wanted to give him a shot. (Fellow guard) Jordan Roper has been out (missing a win against Coastal Carolina with a concussion before playing 16 minutes Tuesday) and Devin has been practicing a lot and playing well. He is coming off a couple of good games and is rolling right now, so he is probably taking minutes that Jordan had.”
The Tigers travel to Arkansas on Saturday, while S.C. State hosts Georgia Southern.
Clemson fought through early offensive struggles to take a 34-31 halftime lead on guard Rod Hall’s 3-point play with 44 seconds left. The Tigers trailed 20-11 with 8:39 to play, with no points from leading scorer K.J. McDaniels.
But they finished the half on a 23-11 run, with nine points coming from Coleman.
Clemson started the second half on a 13-6 run to push the lead to double figures and kept it there the rest of the way.
After shooting 45.2 percent in the first half, S.C. State made five of its first 21 shots from the field after halftime, a 23.8 percent clip. The Bulldogs finished with seven field goals for the second half, shooting 23.3 percent for the half and 34.4 percent for the game.
“In the second half, we played more like we need to play,” Brownell said. “We defended better and we followed our game plan much better. We caused them some problems and we just struggled our way throughout on offense.”
Percentages: FG .344, FT .571. 3-Point Goals: 3-15, .200 (Adams 1-2, Smith 1-4, Wright 1-5, Myers 0-1, White 0-1, Palmer 0-2). Team Rebounds: 8. Blocked Shots: 2 (Palmer, Hezekiah). Turnovers: 9 (Adams 4, Wright 2, White 2, Hezekiah). Steals: 6 (Hezekiah 2, Palmer 2, Wright, Joint). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .424, FT .818. 3-Point Goals: 6-19, .316 (Coleman 3-7, Blossomgame 1-3, Roper 1-4, McDaniels 1-5). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 5 (Nnoko 4, Hall). Turnovers: 11 (McDaniels 3, Harrison 2, Djambo 2, Filer 2, Roper, Blossomgame). Steals: 4 (Filer 2, Roper, Harrison). Technical Fouls: None.
Att.–5,000. Officials–Gary Maxwell, Dwayne Gladden, Earl Robinson.