CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Clemson got two things it desperately needed — the return of point guard Clyde Trapp and its first victory in almost a month.
Aamir Simms scored 18 points as Clemson ended a four-game losing streak with a 68-39 victory over Jacksonville on Friday night.
Curran Scott, a graduate transfer from Tulsa, added a season-high 15 points for the Tigers (6-5), who had not tasted a win since defeating TCU 62-60 nearly four weeks ago.
While Trapp scored only four points in 12 minutes, the junior leader’s return from an ACL injury six months ago was a welcome sight as the Tigers (6-5) had to cobble together a backcourt with freshmen Al-Amir Dawes and Chase Hunter.
“All through the process, I just tried to be a great leader,” Trapp said. “It’s rough coming in and not being able to play 30 minutes a game. I just tried to be there for them.”
Trapp’s presence seemed enough to push Clemson to a fast start against the Dolphins.
Simms stepped up as the Tigers opened a 13-6 lead as he, Johnny Newman III and Tevin Mack all hit 3-pointers.
When Jacksonville (7-7) tightened things to 15-12, the Tigers again got going from long range with a 17-8 run that included another 3 each from Simms and Scott. When Dawes hit a bucket from behind the arc, Clemson was up 32-20 with less than five minutes left in the opening half.
Kevin Norman scored Jacksonville’s first 10 points in the opening five minutes. He was held scoreless by Clemson the rest of the period as the Tigers took control.
Things continued going Clemson’s way in the second half as Jacksonville could not overcome the team’s tight defense.
The Tigers held Jacksonville to 11 points in the second half, the fewest points scored by an opponent in the period in coach Brad Brownell’s 10 seasons.
Brownell said Trapp was a steadying presence on the court. “He just kind of settles our team,” the coach said. “He’s a guy who just kind of knows what we’re looking for and understands how we want to do some things.”
Tevin Mack had seven points and a game-best 11 rebounds for Clemson.
The Dolphins shot less than 18% (5-of-28) the final 20 minutes and made only one of 14 3-pointers taken in the period.
Jacksonville missed its final 10 shots and was held scoreless the final 7:56 of the game.
Jacksonville was without senior starter — and Ohio State transfer — in 6-foot-10 David Bell, who was limited in shoot around because of several bumps and bruises, according to the team.
Bell had hit for double figure points and rebounds his previous four games.
Destin Barnes, the Dolphins’ leading scorer this season at nearly 12 points a game, was held to half his average with six points on 2-of-5 shooting.
Norman led the Dolphins with 16 points.
“We missed some shots that allowed them to kind of stretch their lead,” Dolphins coach Tony Jesick said. “We’d come down miss, go down and play a good defensive possession, give up an offensive rebound and (they’d) score.”
Jacksonville: The Dolphins need all their pieces to contend against Clemson, the team’s lone Power Five Conference opponent this season. Without Bell, the Tigers were able to take charge underneath with Simms.
Clemson: The Tigers got a boost with the return of point guard Clyde Trapp after a serious knee injury. Trapp had four points in 12 minutes. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be an experienced hand heading into the meat of the Atlantic Coast Conference season.
Clemson’s Brownell believes that Trapp’s return will help his rotation, including having Curran Scott concentrate on shooting guard instead of bringing the ball up. Scott’s 15 points were the most he’s scored for the Tigers and Brownell thinks he’ll be even more effective when Trapp can go for longer stretches.
Jacksonville coach Tony Jasick said his team played hard against their lone Power Five opponent, despite its most lopsided loss this season. “Can’t really fault our team’s effort. They came out and competed and we can certainly grow from that,” he said.
Jacksonville has a 10-day break before playing South Carolina State at home on Dec. 30.
Clemson plays the third game of a five-game homestand against Yale on Sunday.