Clemson Wins Its Charleston Classic Opener

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Elijah Thomas had career highs with 17 points and 15 rebounds, and Clemson's defense took control in the second half of an 81-76 victory over Ohio at the Charleston Classic on Thursday night.
    
The Tigers (3-0) will face either Dayton or Hofstra on Friday for a berth in Sunday night's tournament finals. Ohio will face the Flyers-Pride loser on Friday.
    
Donte Graham added 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting for the Tigers.
    
The Bobcats (1-1) hung tough with Clemson for a half until the bigger, stronger, quicker opponents from the Atlantic Coast Conference took over.
    
The Tigers used an 11-3 run to start the second half to open up a 53-41 lead. Their defense, always a source of pride for Clemson coach Brad Brownell, kicked in as Ohio struggled to get off shots for much of the second half.
    
Marcquise Reed's 3-pointer put Clemson up 63-47 with eight minutes left. Ohio made a final surge, cutting the margin to 78-74 on Gavin Block's driving layup with 15 seconds left. But Shelton Mitchell followed with two foul shots and the Bobcats fell to 14-32 against current ACC opponents.
    
Block led Ohio with a career-high 22 points including a career best six 3-pointers.
    
Thomas, a 6-foot-9 forward, surpassed his previous best of 15 points set last season against Duke. His 11 rebounds against Miami in 2016-17 was his old best on the boards. It was Thomas' third career double-double and it helped Clemson continue its strong play in the tournament.
    
The Tigers are now 6-1 in the eight-team, pre-Thanksgiving Day event. They won the 2008 title and lost in the finals to UMass in 2013.
    
THE TAKEAWAY
    
Ohio: The Bobcats sure can shoot. They hit 13 of 23 shots (56.5 percent) in the opening half. A drought in the second half - starting 6 of 16 - got them out of rhythm and they could not overcome Clemson's big lead with a late charge.
    
Clemson: The Tigers will need Thomas to be as active underneath against all opponents, particularly in the ACC, as he was in playing Ohio. The former Texas A&M forward has the potential to be a force down low for the Tigers going forward.
    

Pete Iacobelli, Associated Press


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