Clemson’s Andre Young, center, drives to the basket between Wake Forest’s C.J. Harris, left, and Tony Chennault in the first half Saturday in Clemson, S.C. Young, a former Deerfield star, scored 19 points in Clemson’s 71-60 win as he’s now led the Tigers in their last two games.
CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson coach Brad Brownell has been seeking a go-to player much of this season.
Andre Young looks like he is finally ready to answer the call.
Young, a former Deerfield star and the Tigers’ starting point for the last two seasons, followed up a career high of 29 points in beating Georgia Tech last week with 19 points and three 3-pointers as Clemson topped Wake Forest, 71-60, on Saturday.
Young, the Tigers’ best long-range shooter last year, figured to be a central figure if Clemson hoped to extend its streak of five straight 20-win seasons and five straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Yet, Young’s endured a shooting slump for much of the early season. He was 2 of 9 from outside the arc in a loss to South Carolina and a combined 4 of 20 from 3-point range in consecutive losses to Boston College, Duke and Miami earlier this month.
Young, who had his Deerfield jersey retired in Albany earlier this season, thinks he’s put that behind him the past two games, going 16 of 24 overall and 10 of 15 on threes.
“It’s just a matter of keep shooting with confidence, and that’s what I’m doing,” Young said. “Teammates, coaches really have my back, encouraging me to shoot with confidence and that’s a good thing to have.”
Not that the Tigers (11-9, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) have much choice. Much of the team’s firepower from year ago left with seniors Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant. Young was counted on heavily to pick up that slack.
Brownell said his 5-foot-9 guard has had to learn to be the focal point, and those lessons are beginning to show in the Tigers favor.
“That’s part of the process of being a primary player. You have to expect to make big shots,” the coach said of Young, who leads Clemson in scoring with 13.9 points a game., steals with 38 this season and assists with 69. “The last two games, he’s been able to do it.”
Devin Booker scored 16 points and Tanner Smith added 13 for the Tigers who shook off an awful start to send Wake Forest to its fifth loss in five games.
Clemson took control with a 13-4 run early in the second half where Young scored six points and Booker had four. The Tigers pressured the Demon Deacons (11-10, 2-5) into four straight turnovers during the stretch, scoring off each one to move in front 51-39 with 12:25 to play.
Wake Forest never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
C.J. Harris scored 19 points to lead the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said his team had too many turnovers (15) and did not take full advantage of Clemson’s slow start. “Therein lies the story of the game in my mind,” he said.
Bzdelik also said having an experienced lead guard like Young doesn’t hurt. “It’s important to have seniors that have been around for a while and who understand the game,” he said. “That just takes time.”
Bryan Narcisse had 11 points, the fourth Clemson player to hit double figures in this one. Booker had seven rebounds, three blocks and three assists for Clemson.
Travis McKie added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Demon Deacons.
Young, meanwhile, shut down Wake Forest on defense, too.
Starting guard Tony Chenault, a sophomore matched against Young, shot just 1 of 7, including 1 of 5 from behind the arc to finish with 3 points, seven fewer than his average.
Clemson and Wake Forest each hoped to gain some traction in the race to avoid the bottom of the ACC. Both came in as two-win league teams, just ahead of one-win Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech in last place.
The Demon Deacons had lost four of five coming in while the Tigers broke a three-game league losing streak last Saturday, 64-62, to the Yellow Jackets.
Wake Forest showed more urgency at first, racing to 6-0 lead and eventually moving in front 19-13. Clemson couldn’t buy a bucket, starting an ice cold 1 of 15 from the floor.
Brownell was angry during a couple of early timeouts, but not because of his team’s lousy shooting percentage. Brownell thought his players weren’t focused on defense and gave them a reminder.
“I didn’t know if we were ready for a competitive fight,” he said. “We were a little bit on our heels.”
That changed midway through the period when Clemson called on its defense to spark a 23-10 run the final eight minutes of the half. Tanner Smith hit a 3-pointer to open the charge, then he and Devin Booker had breakaway jams off Wake Forest turnovers as Clemson took its first lead, 20-19.
Milton Jennings basket put the Tigers in front for good, 26-25. Young followed with a 3-pointer and a basket before Smith brought the Littlejohn crowd to its feet with a 3-pointer as time ran out in the half for a 36-29 lead that Clemson would never give back.
Thanks in large part to Young.