CLEMSON, S.C. -- Jordan Roper tied his career high with 19 points and Clemson's staunch defense shut down one of the country's highest scoring teams in an 80-50 victory over VMI on Monday night.
Roper's output came on an off night for the Tigers' top scorer in K.J. McDaniels. The junior was not given the start by head coach Brad Brownell and was in foul trouble most of the game. McDaniels finished with 7 points, all in the second half for Clemson (9-3).
VMI (6-6) 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.
Clemson used a 13-2 run in the second half to take control. VMI had cut an 11-point lead to 48-44 on Trey Chapman's bucket with 12:30 to go. 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.
Roper's point total tied his mark set last February in a loss to Miami.
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 with a best-in-the-nation figure of 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 team's 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.
McDaniels, the 6-foot-6 junior averaging 17.6 points a game, finally entered with about 7 minutes gone in the opening half. But he picked up two fouls in his five minutes of action and returned to the bench for the final eight minutes of the period. McDaniels missed the only shot he took and had zero points.
Clemson's defense took its toll on VMI's top scorer in Peterson, who was just 2 of 10 in the first 20 minutes.