- Associated Press - Saturday, January 6, 2018

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) - A tough defense, an offense that makes key shots and an experienced starting five coach Brad Brownell trusts.

Clemson is playing some of its best basketball in many years.

Marcquise Reed scored 24 points and had a career-high five steals - two in overtime - to lead No. 25 Clemson to a 74-69 win over Louisville on Saturday.

The Tigers (14-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast), picked to finish 13th in the ACC, have won 10 in a row. Their 3-0 league start is the best since 1997, when they rose to No. 4 with a 5-0 start that ended against a Wake Forest team led by Tim Duncan.

This was the first time under Brownell that Clemson was playing at home as a ranked team.

Four of its five starters played at least 39 minutes. The fifth, Elijah Thomas, had 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks and three steals despite playing only 24 minutes because of foul trouble.

“I just have a lot of faith right now in those five,” Brownell said. They’ve been with me a long time. We’ve been through a lot together.”

Like last season, when the Tigers lost 12 of their 16 games decided by six points or less. On Saturday, Louisville (11-4, 1-1) got the final shot of regulation after a Clemson turnover following another miss with 29 seconds left. Last year, a Louisville win would have seemed a sure thing. But the Tigers clamped down, forcing an off-balance 3 by Quentin Snider that missed badly just before the buzzer.

“Over the years, it has been frustrating in those games,” Clemson senior Gabe DeVoe said. “Finally, we won one.”

The Tigers found their 3-point shot when it mattered, making five of their final seven shots behind the arc after starting the game 2 of 17 on 3s. Clemson stayed in the game by forcing a season-worst 21 turnovers by the Cardinals.

Ray Spaulding led Louisville with 16 points and 14 rebounds while limited to 29 minutes because of fouls. Deng Adel added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Shelton Mitchell had 13 points, going 8 of 9 from the foul line and 2 of 13 on 3-pointers for the Tigers. Donte Grantham had 11 rebounds to offset a 2-of-11 night from the field.

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals played good defense, holding Clemson to just 37 percent (25 of 68) shooting, but the turnovers hurt. It was Louisville’s second loss in seven games against Clemson.

Clemson: The Tigers did all the things right they have struggled with over many years. Clemson made 11 of 14 free throws in overtime. Its defense made key stops after Louisville erased a seven-point lead with six minutes to go, holding the Cardinals to just a basket in the final 2:29 of regulation. And the Tigers handled the extra attention brought by that new ranking.

TURNING IT OVER AND OVER

Louisville coach David Padgett said other than those 21 turnovers, the Cardinals did everything to win.

“We shot a good percentage, we outrebounded them by 11,” Padgett said. “You just can’t turn the ball over 21 times. It is impossible to overcome.”

The 15 steals by Clemson were more turnovers than Louisville has had in all but three games this season.

“They were more physical. We initiate a lot of stuff off a lot of dribble handoffs and they did a lot to get right in there,” Padgett said.

POLL WATCH (AND BEYOND)

Clemson is staying in the Associated Press Top 25 after a 2-0 week. This was its first week in the poll since 2010.

If the Tigers match the 5-0 ACC start from the 1997 team, they would go for 6-0 at North Carolina on Jan. 16. Clemson is 0-58 all time in Chapel Hill.

Clemson hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2011.

FLAT BUT FAST

A fan won $10,000 during a timeout by making a 94-foot putt across the wood floor at Littlejohn Coliseum into a mouse-sized hole. The only bigger cheer Saturday came when Clemson forced overtime.

UP NEXT

Louisville: The Cardinals play at No. 24 Florida State on Wednesday.

Clemson: The Tigers try to finish an early-season sweep at North Carolina State on Thursday. Clemson beat the Wolfpack at home 78-62 on Dec. 30.

___

More AP College Basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter.


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