CLEMSON, S.C. — D.J. Byrd hopes he’s got plenty of performances like this left in him for Purdue this season.
Byrd scored a season-high 22 points, 20 of those coming in the first half as the Boilermakers built a large-lead and held on to defeat Clemson 73-61 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night. Byrd hit six 3-pointers the first 20 minutes, even banking one in off the glass with the shot clock running down.
The senior guard hadn’t averaged more than 9 points a game his first three seasons. He says he’s ready to duplicate his effort against the Tigers (4-2).
“That’s the plan,” Byrd said with a smile.
The Boilermakers (3-3) won in the conference challenge for a fourth straight year and did on the strength of their early outside shooting. Byrd was 6 of 9 from beyond the arc while Purdue had seven threes overall to lead 42-22 at the break.
“Just working on getting open shots and taking good shots, my percentages tend to go up,” Byrd said. “I was just trying to take advantage of that.”
Purdue took advantage of everything in the opening half against Clemson, who played without suspended leading scorer Milton Jennings after his arrest on a drug possession charge earlier Wednesday.
The Boilermakers outrebounded their opponents 22-6 and made 16 of 28 shots (57.1 percent) in the opening period for their big lead.
The Tigers (4-2) cut a 23-point lead to 68-59 on Adonis Filer’s three with 1:31 remaining but got no closer.
Terone Johnson 13 and A.J. Hammons and Ronnie Johnson had 10 points each for Purdue.
Devin Booker had 18 points to lead the Tigers. Bernard Sullivan started in place of the 6-foot-9 Jennings and missed both shots he attempted.
Jennings was charged with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana or 10 grams or less of hash. Police say they went to Jennings on-campus apartment after a disabled smoke alarm sent authorities a signal. It was the third time in past 11 months Jennings has missed time due to suspensions for various violations.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell said he’d evaluate Jennings situation the rest of the week “and then decide what I want to do.”
The Tigers next game is at their rival, South Carolina, on Sunday.
K.J. McDaniels was Clemson’s only other player in double figures with 15 points.
Clemson hoped to build on winning the last two games at last week’s Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. But things went wrong for the Tigers even before the game with Jennings transgression. The team’s only other upperclassman, the 6-foot-8 Booker, missed afternoon shoot-around because of a family illness, although he returned in time to start against the Boilermakers.
Booker quickly got things going with a 3-pointer and a jumper for Clemson.
Then Byrd began his outside shooting show. He hit four straight 3-pointers during a 21-4 run as Purdue moved in front for good, 23-9. When Clemson scratched back within 25-17, the Boilermakers took off again. Terone Johnson converted a three-point play and Ronnie Johnson a 3-pointer. Moments later, Byrd screamed in celebration after canning his sixth three of the half put Purdue up 36-18.
Clemson had held its five opponents to less than 60 points, its longest streak in 15 years when Rick Barnes was coach.
Purdue almost stopped that in the first half, going 16 of 28 (57.1 percent) to lead 42-22 at the break. Byrd was 7 of 10 from the field overall. Byrd took just two shots after the break and finished 2 points shy of his career best.
“We stubbed our toes a little bit with the three games we lost,” Byrd said. “There’s nothing you can do except keep fighting back and try to play better.”
Anthony Johnson opened the second half with a 3-pointer for Purdue for its largest lead 45-22.
The Tigers tried to rally, but the hole was far too deep. Purdue’s lead shrunk to 59-47 after Damarcus Harrison’s jumper with 7:32 to go. But Terone Johnson and Anthony Johnson followed with baskets to restore the margin.
Brownell was glad his players rallied in the second half, but dismayed they let things get out of hand. He said the team played early on as if they accepted it wouldn’t be their night “and that’s inexcusable.”
Booker said he was disappointed in Jennings’ actions.
“He’s a grown man. I can’t tell him what to do. He makes his own decisions,” Booker said. “Hopefully, he can learn from his mistakes and come back strong.”