Adonis Filer fulfilled his father’s birthday wish and helped give Clemson confidence heading into Atlantic Coast Conference play at the same time.
The freshman from Chicago scored a career-high 21 points on a perfect shooting performance in the Tigers’ 92-51 victory over Citadel, Clemson’s 15th straight victory against its in-state opponent.
Filer surpassed his high of 14 set last month in a win against Florida A&M. Filer had a little extra incentive Tuesday, too, as a gift for his dad, Steve.
“He told me to try and put on a show for him,” Filer said. “So I just did what I could.”
Filer had 13 points in a game-breaking 27-4 first-half run. He finished 7 of 7 from the field, including four 3-pointers. The icing on the birthday cake was 6-foot-2 Filer’s high-flying dunk in the second half to break his previous best. It followed Filer’s mid-court steal and put the Tigers (8-4) ahead 66-42.
“That’s really what coach (Brad) Brownell’s been wanting us to do, keep pushing it more and more,” Filer said.
Clemson hopes it gets the chance to do some pushing when ACC play starts Saturday. The Tigers were picked eighth in the league this preseason. Ten of their 12 players are sophomores and freshmen.
“There are a few more frustrating moments than years before,” said Brownell, in his third season with the Tigers.
Clemson wiped away its early frustrations in this one with its decisive first-half run. Filer had three 3-pointers and 10 points during the surge, which turned a tight game into a blowout.
Citadel (3-8) lost its seventh straight. The Bulldogs, though, hung with their ACC opponents early as Dylen Setzekorn’s arching 3-pointer drew them within a basket, 18-16, with 10:01 left before halftime.
That’s when Filer and the Tigers got going on their back-breaking run. He opened the charge with a three as Clemson took control over the next eight minutes. Filer added two more 3-pointers and when he closed the run on a foul shot, the Tigers were ahead 45-20 and cruising.
Filer’s lone miss came at the foul line, where he was 3 of 4.
Mike Groselle had 13 points to lead the Citadel, which finished with a season high 25 turnovers. Setzekorn added 11 points for the Bulldogs.
Jordan Roper had 13 points and Damarcus Harrison 10 for the Tigers. Clemson’s leading scorer, Devin Booker, finished with 8 points, although he did not play most of the second half after turning his left ankle after a dunk.
Booker, a 6-foot-8 senior, iced the ankle, which he first hurt in practice on Sunday. The injury was not considered serious and Brownell expects Booker to be ready for Florida State on Saturday.
Clemson finished its pre-ACC schedule with a dominant showing over the Citadel. Not that things came easily. The Tigers’ second-leading scorer, K.J. McDaniels, was late to a team gathering and did not start for the first time this season. The Bulldogs, who trailed Georgia Tech 20-3 early in in their last game, stuck with the Tigers the first 10 minutes.
Filer got the Tigers going after that and Clemson finished with a season-high in points.
Citadel showed the fatigue that comes from a month’s worth of away games. The Bulldogs haven’t played at home since a loss to Radford on Nov. 24 to start their losing streak.
There were five losses, all on the road, in December by an average deficit of 25 points.
Once Clemson turned up its defensive pressure, the Citadel fell apart once again. Clemson scored 25 points off 13 first-half Bulldog turnovers. Rod Hall had a season-high four steals in the opening half for the Tigers. Clemson shot 63.3 percent (19 of 30) in the opening period against the Citadel.
Citadel coach Chuck Driesell was disappointed in his team’s poise.
“I thought we’d handle the pressure a little bit better,” he said. “I thought we would execute offensively and not turn the ball over so much.”
Brownell acknowledged Clemson’s talent edge over Citadel and knows things won’t be nearly as easy against the Seminoles.
“I think our guys are excited and I think we’re in a good place right now,” Brownell said. “But it’s going to be a challenge for this group over 18” games in the ACC.