UNC-Wilmington hoops hang tough in setback at Clemson

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CLEMSON, South Carolina — All-Atlantic Coast Conference forward Jaron Blossomgame scored 20 points to anchor five players in double figures and Clemson shot 55.6 percent from the floor to defeat visiting UNCW, 87-73, in the final non-conference game for both teams Wednesday night at the new-look Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers won their eighth consecutive game to climb to 10-2 overall and remain undefeated at home with a clean 7-0 mark. The Seahawks, playing the first of three games in six days, stand 11-2 after having their season-long eight-game winning streak halted.

Jordon Talley drives the lane in Wednesday's match up at Clemson. Photo courtesy- UNCW Sports.
Jordon Talley drives the lane in Wednesday’s match up at Clemson. Photo courtesy- UNCW Sports.

The 6-7, 220-pound Blossomgame moved into 16th on Clemson’s all-time scoring list with his 20 markers, giving him 1,360 points in his career with the Tigers. Senior guard Avry Holmes added 13 points, sophomore center Elijah Thomas collected 12, senior center Siddy Djitte scored 11 and sophomore guard Shelton Mitchell had 10 for the Tigers.

“We lost to a very good basketball team that has a chance to be an NCAA Tournament team on their home floor tonight,” said UNCW third-year Head Coach Kevin Keatts. “I respected and knew how good they were. They have great size, have a team that can shoot it and they’re led by a very good player in Jaron Blossomgame.

“I’m proud of my guys. I’m happy with our record and what we’ve been able to accomplish in the non-conference with the 11 wins, but disappointed that we lost tonight.”

In only the second meeting ever between the two teams and the first for Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell against his former club, the Tigers used a 20-5 run midway through the first half to break away and carried a 44-31 cushion into intermission before playing even with the Colonial Athletic Association representative in the final period.

Senior guard Denzel Ingram put in a team-high 20 points for UNCW. Sophomore guard C.J. Bryce chipped in 18 points and sophomore forward Devontae Cacok finished with 14 points.

Clemson wound up connecting on an identical 15-of-27 field goals in each period for 55.6 percent on the night. UNCW had six more three-pointers than the Tigers, but Brownell’s club outscored the Seahawks at the free throw line, 25-9.

Trailing by 13 points at the break, the Seahawks shaved the deficit to 10 points twice in the first five minutes of the second half, but the Tigers answered each time and never let UNCW get closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

UNCW, the reigning CAA champions, makes its conference debut on Saturday with a New Year’s Eve date at Towson. The Seahawks and Tigers tip off at Noon at SECU Arena near Baltimore.