CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Marcquise Reed had a season-high 26 points and No. 19 Clemson used a second-half surge to put away pesky Sam Houston State 74-59 on Wednesday night.
The Tigers opened 3-0 for the second straight season and for just the fifth time in coach Brad Brownell’s nine years.
For a good while, though, it seemed the Bearkats of the Southland Conference were more than up to the challenge of handling an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
RJ Smith’s 3-pointer early in the second half put Sam Houston State ahead 38-37. But that’s when the Tigers took control with a 16-3 run fueled by its graduate student backcourt of Reed and Shelton Mitchell.
Reed scored seven straight points to start the run while Mitchell added a pair of baskets, one off a steal where he dribbled into an official before getting clear for the layup and a 53-41 lead.
The Bearkats (2-2) could not respond as Clemson eventually grew the margin to 16 points down the stretch.
Mitchell finished with 13 points while Aamir Simms had 12 points and eight rebounds.
It was Reed’s second 20-point game of the season.
Kai Mitchell led Sam Houston State with 14 points and Josh Delaney added 11.
Clemson looked ready to blow things open early as it made its first six shots and led 15-7 five minutes in. But the Tigers went cold the rest of the half, and Sam Houston State took advantage.
Clemson made just five of its final 18 shots of the opening half and the Bearkats took the lead, 30-29 on Albert Almanza’s four-point play with 43.8 seconds left when he got fouled by Elijah Thomas.
But Clemson’s Mitchell answered with a long 3 20 seconds later to send the Tigers into the break up 32-30.
THE BIG PICTURE
Sam Houston State: The Bearkats have lost two in a row on the road. They showed an ability to hang with bigger Clemson for much of the game, but could not handle the Tigers’ experience in the backcourt with three-year starters in Reed and Mitchell.
Clemson: The Tigers struggled to shoot consistently. Their defense, though, held up throughout the game as they limited Sam Houston State to less than 35 percent shooting with six steals and five blocks.
Sam Houston State concludes its two-game swing at Power Five programs by going to Georgia on Friday night.
Clemson plays Akron on Monday to start the Cayman Islands Classic.