Check below for game stories from all the ACC basketball action on Monday. While we're in non-conference play, stories will be listed in alphabetical order, by which ACC team is involved.
Roper, tough defense lead Clemson to 80-50 win
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) - Clemson coach Brad Brownell liked what he saw of Clemson's defensive play against VMI. He hopes the Tigers can carry that same effort into the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Jordan Roper tied his career high with 19 points and Clemson used its best-in-the-nation defense to shut high-scoring VMI for an 80-50 victory on Monday night. Next up for the Tigers (9-3) is the ACC opener on Saturday at Boston College.
Brownell's team came into the season without two of its three top scorers from last season and without a senior on the roster. Yet, he's seen commitment to defend over the entire court and believes that can help Clemson break out of its what's expected to be a struggling season- the Tigers were picked 14th out of 15 teams in the preseason - in the super-sized ACC.
"Again, I thought we're better than I thought defensively," Brownell said. "I think some guys are improving, you can see that in their performance. But we've still got to find one or two more guys to play a little bit better if we're going to do something in this league."
It will surely help if leading scorer K.J. McDaniels returns to form. The 6-foot-6 junior was late returning to campus from holiday break and Brownell sat him for the game's first seven minutes. When McCaniels got in, he picked up two fast fouls and was back on the bench.
McDaniels, who's averaged 17.6 points a game, finished with seven, six of those in a 13-2 run in the second half that gave Clemson control for good over the Keydets (6-6).
"We came out in the second half and played with a lot more life, a lot more juice and just gave more effort," said Roper, who matched the career best he set as a freshman against Miami last February. "The main thing we tried to focus on was rebounding and getting out in transition because that's when we're at our best."
VMI was third nationally in scoring at 89.5 points per game, but were held to its lowest total of the season by the Clemson defense, which is ranked No. 1 in the country.
D.J. Covington led the Keydets with 20 points. Their two top scorers in QJ Peterson and Rodney Glasgow were a combined 4-for-31 shooting and managed 13 points, more than 25 fewer than the duo usually scores.
Still, VMI drew had cut an 11-point lead to 48-44 on Trey Chapman's second straight basket with 12:30 to go. That's when Roper, McDaniels and the Tigers took off on the critical charge.
McDaniels fueled the Tigers' charge with two inside buckets and two foul shots. When Demarcus Harrison made a pair of free throws with 7:38 left, Clemson led 61-46.
The Keydets managed just four points the rest of the way.
Rod Hall had 14 points, Adonis Filer 12 and Landry Nnoko added 11 points, six rebounds and three blocks for the Tigers.
VMI and Clemson, once Southern Conference rivals, hadn't played in more than 50 years since Dec. 28, 1963. That time, the Tigers won their sixth straight in the series. To keep the streak going, Clemson would have to slow down the Keydets.
The Tigers entered as the country's best at limiting opponents at 53 points allowed per game. But they came in shorthanded against VMI: reserve guard Devin Coleman did not return to the team after holiday break and announced his intentions to transfer last Saturday.
VMI took advantage of a thin Clemson, moving in front 19-11 on the second of Peterson's two straight 3-pointers.
The Tigers defense kicked in after that as they used a 12-2 run to move in front. Roper pushed the surge with three baskets while Adonis Filer and Demarcus Harrison added 3-pointers for a 23-21 lead with 5:50 to play.
The teams traded leads the rest of the half until Landry Nnoko's jam with 1:01 to go gave Clemson a 32-31 lead at the break.
Filer said the players were sluggish from the 11-day break since Clemson's last game, a 66-64 loss at Auburn. "We ate some good food over the break and that was probably the cause of us being a little rusty," he said. "But once we all got going, we all started communicating and everything started clicking."
Clemson's defense took its toll on VMI's top scorer in Peterson, who was just 2 of 10 in the first 20 minutes.
Florida State holds off Charleston Southern 67-59
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton has an interesting approach on how he uses his personnel and it's been paying off.
Hamilton's top scorers start the game sitting next to him on the bench, but he insists they're not being substitutes.
"Our starters come in after the game starts," Hamilton said after reserves Aaron Thomas scored 19 points and Ian Miller 15 in Florida State's 67-59 win Monday over Charleston Southern in its final nonconference game of the season. "We don't have a traditional starting five."
With Thomas and Miller leading the way, the Seminoles' bench outscored the Charleston Southern bench by a 42-19 margin.
Thomas scored 14 of his points in the second half to help the Seminoles (9-3) stay ahead of the pesky visitors, who closed to within 61-56 with 1:20 left before Boris Bojanovsky's dunk gave Florida State a bit of breathing room at 63-56 with 51 seconds left.
"It gives us a better rotation when I can come with my best defender (Thomas) and my best offensive player (Miller) after the first two or three minutes," Hamilton said.
Sophomore point guard Devon Bookert aided the Seminoles with a career-high nine assists and a team-best seven rebounds.
Paul Gombwer and Arlon Harper each scored 11 points to lead Charleston Southern (5-7), which took 29 of its 50 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
"We obviously weren't going to go inside," Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh said in reference to the Seminole front line, which features three seven-footers on their roster. "Their size is astounding. I've never seen size like that on a college team. They utilize their size very well."
Radebaugh's team managed just one offensive rebound in the first half.
"I thought our team played valiantly," he said. "Our team played with tremendous toughness against a monster of a team."
Miller had 11 points off the bench in the first half when the Seminoles reserves outgunned the Charleston backups by a 22-4 margin.
Florida State erased an early 6-0 deficit and took the lead for good at 16-14 on Okaro White's layup with 8:45 left in the half. It was White's lone basket before he fouled out with 5:20 remaining. The Seminoles held their largest lead at 26-17 in the half.
The Seminoles dominated across the board statistically in the opening half with an 18-12 edge in rebounds to go along with seven steals included among Charleston Southern's 11 turnovers. The visitors had just one offensive rebound against the taller Seminoles in the first half.
Hamilton said he admired the Charleston Southern strategy against his lineup.
"They want to use as many 3s as they could to neutralize our size," Hamilton said. "I thought we did a very good job of defending. They played the style that gave them the best chance to win the game.
Florida State takes a modest four-game winning streak into its ACC opener Saturday versus Virginia.
Brown leads Miami past Loyola, 71-48
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) - Miami avoided eight days of possible rust with its largest win of the season.
Rion Brown scored 17 points as the Hurricanes defeated Loyola, 71-48, on Monday night.
The Hurricanes never trailed and increased a 23-point lead at halftime to 60-30 on Brown's third 3-pointer with 9:26 remaining in the second half. Brown shot 4 of 6 from behind the arc and had nine rebounds.
"We needed it honestly," Brown said of the team's layoff. "It gave us some time to recover, get our bodies right, just getting mentally prepared for the second half of the season. It was actually good for us."
Donnavan Kirk scored 12 points and James Kelly finished with 11 points for Miami (8-5). Tonye Jekiri was Miami's fourth double-figure scorer with 10 points.
The Hurricanes also had 17 assists, including seven from freshman Davon Reed.
"I'm just trying to get my teammates involved," Reed said. "We're finally hitting our stride in a lot of areas and passing and moving the ball is one of them."
Miami held Loyola's Dylon Cormier, the nation's fourth leading scorer, to 11 points. Cormier entered Monday's game averaging 24.1 points-per-game. Eric Laster scored 13 points to lead the Greyhounds (5-6), who have lost five straight.
"They did a great job of collapsing on Dylon Cormier and making it difficult to score," Loyola coach G.G. Smith said. "He couldn't get going early and next thing you know we're down 20."
Two runs propelled the Hurricanes to 13-point leads early in the first half. After Loyola reduced Miami's first 13-point advantage to a three-point lead, the Hurricanes countered with eight straight points. Kelly's dunk with 8:13 remaining ended the spurt and increased the Hurricanes' lead to 24-11.
"We've had a couple of good practices leading up to the game," Brown said. "We've just been practicing winning. We just came out and played as hard as we could and the rest took care of itself."
Miami held Loyola scoreless for a 6:30 stretch until Franz Rassman's tip-in with 6:40 left ended the Greyhounds' scoring drought. Loyola shot 29 percent from the field in the first half.
"We're going to play teams that are more efficient offensively," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "Tonight we did what we needed to do. We've been working a lot on our offense and we've seen good results."
Kelly's 3-pointer with 47 seconds remaining in the first half gave the Hurricanes their first 20-point lead at 42-20. Brown converted one of two free throws with 15 seconds remaining for a 43-20 halftime lead.
"I thought our effort was better in the second half," Smith said. "We kept fighting. It's been the story of our season. We've been down in the first half. We're down too much early to come back and try to get a win."
The Greyhounds responded from an early 13-point deficit with 10 unanswered points during a 2:40 stretch in the first half. Laster hit consecutive three pointers and Denzel Brito's layup with 13:10 remaining capped the run and got Loyola to within 14-11.
Miami opened the game with a 14-1 surge in the first 3:48 behind seven points from Brown. James Kelly also scored two baskets in the Hurricanes' early spurt.
Miami resumes ACC play Saturday at No. 2 Syracuse. The Hurricanes lost against Virginia Tech Dec. 8 in their lone conference game before January.
"We're going to be stepping up to a major level of talent," Larranaga said. "The challenge dramatically increases."
The Greyhounds open their Patriot League schedule with a home game against Navy on Thursday.
NC State beats UNC Greensboro 68-64
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - For the second straight game, North Carolina State watched an opponent chop away at a double-digit lead in the second half. This time, at least, the Wolfpack didn't let the victory slip away.
T.J. Warren scored 24 points to help N.C. State beat UNC Greensboro 68-64 on Monday night despite blowing nearly all of a 17-point lead.
For coach Mark Gottfried, it was another example of all the little things his reshaped roster still has to work on heading into Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Pittsburgh.
N.C. State won despite going 7 minutes without a basket in the second half during UNC Greensboro's comeback and finishing with one field goal in the final 10½ minutes. The Wolfpack also went 19 for 33 (58 percent) from the foul line, including just 3 for 6 in the final 2½ minutes.
"We've got to do things better," Gottfried said. "You've just go to make some shots and keep scoring. When you stop scoring the ball, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense every single trip. I think that's where in the last couple of games we haven't been as efficient for some reason.
"When you want to win close games, you've got to keep scoring. You can't put all that pressure on your defense every trip."
N.C. State (10-3) was coming off a home loss - coincidentally, by the same score - to No. 25 Missouri on Saturday night. N.C. State twice led by 10 points in that one, the last time coming with about 9 minutes left, before the Tigers rallied and went ahead for good on a 3-pointer with 55.1 seconds left.
The Wolfpack flirted with going a step further against the Spartans (7-8), twice letting that big lead get down to a single basket in the final 4½ minutes before hanging on late for a road win in the building that will host the ACC tournament in March.
"It's going to get a lot of guys' attention because every night we've got to come out and play whether we're down or we're up," said Desmond Lee, who scored 15 for N.C. State. ".. It's going to open up a lot of guys' eyes, knowing we've got to come play every night from the start and not try to win a game at the end."
Anthony "Cat" Barber added 17 points and six assists for N.C. State, which ran off a 16-2 spurt and scored on its first seven possessions after halftime to take a 54-37 lead with 16:03 left. But that lead stood at just 66-64 on Diante Baldwin's layup with 51.8 seconds left.
Warren hit 1 of 2 free throws with 23.4 seconds left, and then the Wolfpack got a key defensive stop when Kyle Cain and Kayel Locke both missed shots in the paint. Barber followed that with another free throw with 8.2 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and essentially seal the win.
Locke scored 19 points and Tevon Saddler added 18 for the Spartans, who were trying to beat their second straight ACC opponent. UNC Greensboro had beaten Virginia Tech on the road on Saturday, earning the program's second win in 52 tries against ACC opponents.
They took the Wolfpack right to the end of this one on a testy night that ended with the two teams jawing back and forth and having to be separated during postgame handshakes. Lee and Barber had traded words with UNC Greensboro guard Jordan Potts on the court during the final minutes.
The game ended a run of three straight ACC opponents for the Spartans, who lost to Wake Forest on Dec. 21 and to N.C. State on Monday night by a combined 12 points. They open Southern Conference play Thursday at Western Carolina.
"I think we've accomplished what we wanted to accomplish in the nonconference: get a little more tougher, get a little more together and learn how to play through adversity when things aren't going our way," Spartans coach Wes Miller said. "And I think we've kind of gotten to the point that we know we can do it. Whether we'll do that consistently is up to us moving forward, but we know we're capable of it now and that was really important tonight down 17."
Tennessee tops Virginia 87-52
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Sensing the halftime buzzer was about to sound, Antonio Barton launched the ball from halfcourt but didn't think it would find the net.
"I didn't when it left my hands, but as it kept going I thought, 'OK, this thing has a chance of going in,' and it went in clean," the Tennessee guard said.
Barton and his Tennessee teammates just couldn't seem to miss as they cruised to an 87-52 win against Virginia on Monday night.
Jordan McRae scored 21 points and Josh Richardson and Jarnell Stokes each added 20 for the Vols (8-4). Tennessee's 48 first-half points were the most allowed by Virginia since giving up 55 to Washington on Nov. 22, 2010.
Tennessee scored first and never trailed. The Cavaliers (9-4) left the hot-handed Richardson open in front of their bench, and Richardson cleanly sank a 3 that gave the Vols a 27-11 lead with 10:53 in the first half and, ultimately, control of the game.
The Vols had been sluggish on offense in recent weeks but shot 57.7 percent from the field and 8-for-11 from 3 in the first half, including Barton's buzzer-beating shot that gave them a 48-26 halftime lead.
"When you make shots, that's what you look like," coach Cuonzo Martin said. The 35-point margin of victory was the largest in his coaching tenure at Tennessee.
Tennessee managed to keep Virginia off-balance on offense, though the Cavaliers struggled with open looks too, shooting just 32.7 percent from the field.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team had looked solid in practices leading up to the game and that he "wasn't expecting us to come out and perform like this." The Cavaliers entered the contest allowing just 54.2 points per game and lost by a combined 16 points in its three previous losses of the season.
"They were hot, but . we were disjointed," he said. "We looked slow, we looked tired, we looked delayed in our reactions. Every mistake we made, they capitalized on."
Justin Anderson led Virginia with 11 points, and Mike Tobey added 10.
"We just got out-toughed, outplayed, outworked, out-everythinged. It was just really embarrassing," Cavaliers guard Joe Harris said.
Virginia scored the first two baskets after halftime, but it was as close as the Cavaliers would get.
It was a far cry from last year's meeting between the two teams in Charlottesville. Virginia held the Vols to their third-lowest point total since the 1985 introduction of the shot clock en route to a 46-38 win on Dec. 5, 2012. Tennessee surpassed that point total with a 3-pointer by Barton with 4:36 left in the first half that made it 39-15.
Both teams reached the NIT last season and had set their expectations for the 2013-14 season higher with NCAA tournament hopes. Instead, they've both stumbled through the first half of the season.
Tennessee entered the game having won just six of its first 10 to continue its recent history of sluggish starts. Virginia posted consecutive losses at home to No. 4 Wisconsin - ranked eighth at the time - and at Green Bay before bouncing back with victories over Northern Iowa and Norfolk State in its last two games.
The victory was an especially important NCAA resume-building win for the Vols, who face a weaker conference lineup.
"This is what we could and should look like," Martin said.