Grant saves the day

CLEMSON - In a game in which Clemson's starting point guard was out with a foot injury and where first-team All-ACC candidate Trevor Booker didn't score until there was 7:02 left to play, somebody had to step up their play.

Turns out that somebody was Jerai Grant.

The junior center poured in 18 points on 7-of-11 from the field, grabbed 12 rebounds and recorded five blocks to help No. 21 Clemson hold off Maryland Sunday evening at Littlejohn Coliseum.

"I knew I would have to step my game up," Grant said of his career-high in points performance. "Trevor had the flu all week long but I'm not sure I even expected this."

Maybe he should have.

Coming off an impressive performance in Clemson's last game against Boston College (12 points, four rebounds), Grant is slowly but surely starting to become a much-needed second presence in the post.

Oliver Purnell said afterwards his play was a byproduct of Maryland's intense focus on Booker.

"They were even more determined to take him (Booker) out of it," Purnell said. "So Jerai knows when Booker has the ball to crash down towards to the basket and that's what he did. When Booker got the double team, he kicked it back out and we swung it around back on the other side to find him.

"Credit Jerai for being able to finish and credit our guys for being able to find him too."

Grant was also able to do Sunday night against a team from his home state, which made it all the more sweeter considering the Terps didn't recruit him out of high school.

"It's always special, beating Maryland. Playing against Maryland is always special," he said. "They didn't even recruit me so I'll just leave it at that. It's special."

Time after time, Maryland made a bog run in the second half, even taking a two-point lead at one point, but time after time Clemson had an answer. And usually it came via Grant's play.

Whether it was a critical block in the closing minute, a big rebound with the score tied or a basket in the post, Grant saved his best performance of his career in one of the biggest games of the season.

Had the Tigers lost, they would have been riding a four-game losing streak into Saturday's game at Virginia Tech and been 3-5 at the halfway point in conference play.

Instead, the win moves Clemson back to .500 with three of its next four games in the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum.

And for Grant? Well, his confidence is soaring higher than ever.

"I definitely feel more confident. As long as the team trusts me, I'm going to keep trusting myself to the ball on the rim." Top Stories