Clemson outplays Minnesota in Challenge showdown

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- K.C. Rivers would like be in the game from the start, but Clemson is happy with his performance off the bench.

Rivers scored 22 points, Vernon Hamilton added 13 points and Cliff Hammonds 12 to lead the Tigers past Minnesota 90-68 on Wednesday.

"Coach always tells us before the game to be ready and that's what I was doing," said Rivers, the only Tiger who has scored in double-figures in every game. "I was watching how the defense was playing. I kind of caught a rhythm tonight."

The Tigers' leading scorer at 13.1 points per game, Rivers was 5-for-9 from outside the arc and 1-for-4 inside.

James Mays added 11 points and 10 rebounds. Trevor Booker also had 11 points for Clemson (8-0), which has won its first eight games three times in the past five years, including an 11-0 start last year.

"I'm pleased to get out of here with a win," said coach Oliver Purnell, who coached his 100th game at Clemson. "It's the second year in a row we've been able to go on the road and win and third win overall in the (Big Ten-ACC) Challenge."

Dan Coleman scored 18 points for Minnesota (2-5), which lost its fifth straight. The five non-conference losses is the school's longest streak since the Gophers lost six in a row in 1962-63. Brandon Smith added 15 points, Lawrence McKenzie 14 and Spencer Tollackson 11.

Clemson held a 43-22 rebounding edge, including 24-5 on the offensive end.

"A lot of it is personality. I told them for two days that it can't be a jumping contest and part of it is technique," said Minnesota coach Dan Monson, whose team was playing its fourth game in six days. "With the guys that are better athletes, we needed to be more physical."

Like the 6-foot-9 Mays. Of his 10 boards, six were offensive to keep possessions alive and another half-dozen went off his fingertips, only to be corralled by a teammate. The quick center also had three steals.

"That is one of my strengths, so I had to go to it and do what I do best," said Mays, who entered the night averaging 7.4 rebounds. "I just went hard after the boards. Lately I've been doing good on the offensive boards."

The Gophers shot 72.7 percent in the first half but took only 22 shots, in part because of 12 first-half turnovers. Many of them were caused by an inability to get the ball up the court with the Tigers -- particularly Mays and Hamilton -- harassing Minnesota guards. Minnesota, which had 51 turnovers in its last three losses, finished with a season-high 24 turnovers.

"If we didn't turn it over they were dunking it," Purnell said. "We haven't had anybody shoot 73 percent against us in a half, ever. It was because they were able to break the press. It wasn't because they were running a super-crisp, perfect offense. They were breaking the press and attacking."

However, that wasn't too often because Clemson continually rotated players in and out of the lineup. Its reserves outscored Minnesota's reserves 40-5. Three of the Minnesota points came with eight seconds left.

"Because of our style we have to get contributions from everybody. We have to go eight or nine deep," Purnell said. "We had Mays and Booker in foul trouble in the first half and our other posts stepped up to kind of keep things going, particularly on defense."

Tied at 27 after a 3-point play by Smith, including a dunk between two Tigers, Clemson sank five 3-point baskets in the final five minutes for a 46-37 halftime lead. Powell hit two of the long-range shots. Clemson finished with seven 3-pointers in the first half and a season-high 12 for the game, five from Rivers.

"Our attitude in the locker room was great, but we didn't show it on the court," Smith said. "The first 15 minutes we were ready and looking good. After that it seemed we didn't want it as bad."

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Rivers and Sam Perry gave Clemson a 61-45 lead seven minutes into the second half.

Minnesota got within 14 points on a 3-pointer by McKenzie with 6:30 to play, but Hammonds answered for Clemson with a pair of layups off Gopher turnovers.


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