CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Brad Brownell was pleased to see a healthier Marcquise Reed excel against Lipscomb. Reed and the Tigers will likely need to be even better going forward into Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The Tigers (10-3) got 26 points from Reed — his second straight game with 20 or more points since returning from a knee injury — and used a strong defense to defeat upset-minded Lipscomb 84-67 on Sunday. Next up comes the ACC and things start at No. 1 Duke.
"Obviously, we start with big-time games," Brownell said. "But you're going to play those games in this league at some point. So, hopefully, we're at least moving into a good place and playing better basketball."
That hasn't always been the case at Clemson this season. After reaching the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 last year and returning four seniors from that team, the Tigers rose to No. 16 in the rankings before losses to Creighton, Nebraska and Mississippi State. They've rallied to win their past four and have hope for another strong ACC run.
"We've got some good momentum going into conference play," Reed said.
Reed is a big reason why. He missed three games with an ankle sprain, including the 82-71 loss to Mississippi State three weeks ago. He had 20 points in his return in a win over South Carolina before finishing two points shy of his career best against Lipscomb.
"I had a week to get my wind back," he said.
Reed still plays with a brace on his affected, left knee and it will remain in place until he feels 100 percent.
The Tigers (10-3) opened a 20-point lead in the opening half and held off pesky Lipscomb (9-4), which was looking to beat a second Power Five conference opponent this year after toppling TCU of the Big 12 last month.
But the Bisons couldn't handle the outside shooting of Reed or strength of forwards Elijah Thomas and David Skara around the basket. Thomas finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Skara had 17 points, including three 3-point plays.
Lipscomb opened the second half with a 16-4 run to cut Clemson's 21-point lead to 52-43 with more than 14 minutes left. But the Tigers answered with 10 straight points to regain momentum.
Lipscomb made the NCAA Tournament a year ago as Atlantic Sun Conference tournament champions and has gained a reputation for throwing scares into Power Five opponents. The Bisons won at Missouri two years ago, lost 72-68 at Louisville three games ago and, just last month, defeated their first Top 25 opponent by knocking off then-18th-ranked TCU, 73-64, at the Horned Frogs home.
They could not keep this one close for long as the more experienced Atlantic Coast Conference opponent used its speed, size and ability to take control with a 24-12 surge midway through the opening half.
The Bisons, averaging just more than 12 turnovers a game this season, had 16 in the opening half off 10 steals by Clemson. They finished with a season-high 22.
"For us to walk into halftime with one assist and double-digit turnovers means they took us out of pretty much everything we wanted to do," Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander said.
Mathews had 19 points to lead Lipscomb.
Lipscomb: The Bisons struggled to contain Clemson forward Thomas down low. Chances are they won't see too many, 6-foot-9, 245-pound players as strong and determined as Thomas down low in Atlantic Sun play the next three months.
Clemson: The Tigers will need to shore up things for the ACC, particularly on ball handling after 18 turnovers against Lipscomb. It's the third straight game they've had at least that many.
OPENING ACC STRETCH
Clemson follows its game at Duke with a trip to Syracuse before opening its home ACC run against No. 4 Virginia.
The attention this week at Clemson will largely be on the Tigers' undefeated, 14-0 football team prepping for a national championship game against Alabama on Jan. 7. Reed hopes the basketball team delivers a strong opening act on Saturday. "A nice win at Duke would definitely open some eyes," he said.
Lipscomb: The Bisons open Atlantic Sun Conference play at Jacksonville on Saturday.
Clemson: The Tigers start Atlantic Coast Conference play at Duke on Saturday.
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