Etou’s 20 points leads Rutgers past Clemson 69-64
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Playing its third game in four days, Rutgers might have folded Monday as Clemson took its biggest lead of the game at seven points with less than eight minutes to go.
But the Scarlet Knights (4-3) didn’t panic, ran their offense and scored on six of their next seven possessions on the way to a 69-64 win over Clemson in Rutgers’ first ever game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Junior Etou scored seven of his 20 points during the 16-2 run for the Scarlet Knights that turned a 55-48 deficit with 7:42 left to a 64-57 lead with 32 seconds left. Myles Mack had five of his 12 points and two of his eight assists during the decisive stretch.
“We didn’t panic, we didn’t take bad shots. We didn’t turn the ball over because we were rushing,” Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said.
The Tigers (4-3) missed seven of eight shots during the run. The loss broke a 3-game winning streak.
The Scarlet Knights forced 12 turnovers and gave away the ball just three times. Before Monday, their fewest turnovers were eight in a win over Vanderbilt. Rutgers also had 16 assists on 25 baskets.
Rutgers “executed their offense about as well as anyone has executed against us,” said Clemson coach Brad Brownell, who builds his teams around defense. “They had us on skates a couple of times.”
After going 0-for-13 on 3-pointers in a 45-26 loss to No. 7 Virginia on Saturday, the Scarlet Knights’ first four shots were behind the arc. They hit three of them, and an easy layup by Junior Etou on a nice pass from Myles Mack put Rutgers up 11-5 in the first three minutes. Rutgers shot 36.8 percent (7-of-19) on 3-pointers Monday night.
Clemson climbed back in it, taking its first lead at 26-25 on a Landry Nnoko dunk off the inbounds with just under four minutes to go. They slowly stretched the lead out to seven in the second half before Rutgers made its run.
Damarcus Harrison led Clemson with 15 points, while Jaron Blossomgame had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double.
“As a team, we’ve got to get better closing out games like this,” Harrison said.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are 53-143 against ACC teams, but most of those games came against Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame when they were all in the old Big East. Rutgers has never beaten Duke, Virginia or Florida State from the ACC and has never played Wake Forest.
Clemson: The Tigers are 9-6 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with wins over Northwestern, Penn State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois and Iowa. Hall had no problems with a sprained ankle he suffered, missing almost all Friday’s win over High Point. Hall played 36 minutes Monday. Clemson’s next three games are all against Southeastern Conference teams (Arkansas, Auburn and at South Carolina).
LOTS OF GAMES
Rutgers trip to Clemson was its first true road game of the season. It also marked the fifth game in eight days for the Scarlet Knights.
Jordan said his team was tired in the second half of its 45-26 loss to Virginia, scoring just eight points in the final 20 minutes. But he said they bounced back quickly on the trip. He was especially impressed with how senior Myles Mack recovered. Mack had no turnovers and eight assists in 37 minutes to go along with his 12 points.
“Myles found his spots to score,” Jordan said. “I just saw him orchestrate this thing and it was a great thing to see.”
Brownell said Clemson isn’t as tough as it has been in previous seasons. He said seniors Harrison and Rod Hall are too quiet to be the leaders the team needs right now and Blossomgame and Nnoko aren’t experienced enough.
None of them are filling the void left by K. J. McDaniels, who is now playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.
“We just are lacking a little bit of confidence, a little bit of energy, a little bit of swagger, a little bit of toughness. All the things that K.J. brought, we really don’t have it,” Brownell said.
Rutgers is at Seton Hall on Saturday.
Clemson hosts Arkansas on Sunday.