CLEMSON, S.C. -- There was no upset for UMBC yesterday in its season opener against defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson, but the Retrievers kept the final score respectable in a 90-73 loss to the Tigers.
Still, the defeat at Littlejohn Coliseum didn't sit well with UMBC coach Earl Hawkins.
"I'm never pleased with a loss," said Hawkins, who is beginning his third season at UMBC. "I'm pleased with our performance somewhat, but I'm not happy with it. I'd much rather be 1-0."
Hawkins was most distressed about the lopsided offensive rebounding. Clemson had 19 offensive rebounds, the Retrievers eight.
"We learned a lot, and we didn't quit. That was the biggest thing. We could have gotten down 15 and quit and gotten beat by 30 or 40."
The Retrievers also kept the spread closer than expected.
"It was not one of the blowouts people were expecting," Clemson coach Cliff Ellis said. "I know we're going to struggle. It's not a veteran team. We played a team tonight we were supposed to beat."
The Tigers scored the first two baskets and outscored the Retrievers, 8-2, in the first four minutes.
But UMBC tied Clemson at 14 with 12:11 remaining when sophomore Brian Watkins scored on a fast-break layup and subsequent free throw.
"We expected the first 10 minutes to be a game where we would have to fight and scrap," Ellis said. We played the first 10 minutes with some opening-game jitters."
Tigers substitute Sean Tyson, a senior from Baltimore's Dunbar High School, scored eight consecutive points for Clemson to give the Tigers a 22-18 lead. Clemson never trailed after Tyson's 10-foot jumper gave it an 18-16 lead with 10:06 remaining in the first half.
"We needed to get a lead early," Tyson said. Defensively, I tried to make some things happen."
David Young joined forces with Tyson to give Clemson a 13-4 scoring edge during a four-minute stretch. That resulted in a 29-20 lead.
Led by Ricky Jones, the Tigers scored seven more consecutive points to to increase the lead to 38-25. Freshman Eric Burks scored on a three-pointer from atop the key, and Jones added a fast-break layup and ensuing free throw 23 seconds later to give Clemson a 50-33 lead, its biggest of the first half.
Jim Frantz scored on an 11-foot jumper with 12 seconds remaining to put UMBC two points closer at intermission.
Clemson extended its lead to 22 less than four minutes into the second half. Dale Davis led a 9-2 scoring spurt by the Tigers with six points.
Davis led Clemson with 23 points and eight rebounds.
The Retrievers pulled within 13 with 13:21 remaining after outscoring Clemson, 11-2. But reserve center Colby Brown scored four consecutive points to give the Tigers a 65-48 lead.
With 9:12 remaining, Clemson's lead was again 22, thanks to four points by Davis and two by Brown.
UMBC got no closer than 20 points until late in the game, when Ellis emptied the Tigers bench. Everyone played, and 10 of the 11 players scored.
"This was a good win for us at home," Tyson said. It gives some of the young guys confidence this season. I think a lot of the veterans and incoming freshmen played well together."
It was Clemson's 25th consecutive win on its home court.
The loss was the first opening-game defeat for third-year coach Hawkins. The 12-man squad, with five sophomores and four freshmen, will play four games in the next 10 days.
Tuesday, UMBC plays Howard in its home opener at the UMBC Fieldhouse.
It was the first time the Retrievers have played Clemson, the fifth time they've competed against an ACC opponent.