EXCLUSIVE: Gramlich’s Three-Point Barrage Busts Bulldog Zone
CLEMSON, SC - Just call Kelly Gramlich the zone buster.
Knowing South Carolina State was likely to play primarily zone defense after seeing Clemson dominate the paint at UNCG last week, head coach Audra Smith spent a lot of time in practice this week working on offenses to combat a 2-3 zone.
Most of those plays focused on getting good looks for Gramlich, the Lady Tigers’ top three-point shooter.
“I was ready, and I was feeling good,” Gramlich said.
The junior from Austin, Texas, has had plenty of red-hot shooting performances in a Clemson uniform, but she’d never made as many three-pointers as she did Saturday.
Gramlich set a school record with eight three-pointers for a career-high 24 points, as the Lady Tigers scored 27 of the game’s first 31 points and won their fifth straight, a 88-46 drubbing at Littlejohn Coliseum.
While Gramlich has never been shy about letting fly, she made her threes in efficient fashion against the Bulldogs, needing just 12 tries to make the eight trifectas, good for a shooting percentage of 66.7 percent.
“Kelly had a phenomenal week of practice,” Smith said. “She’s been really confident in her shot and really knocking it down. Of course, a lot of credit goes to her teammates for finding her. We did an unbelievable job of sharing the basketball.”
Gramlich was being interview outside the locker room after the game as Nikki Dixon came out, and Gramlich nodded toward her junior classmate.
“There’s the whole reason I made all those shots,” she said.
On the day, Clemson had 24 assists — with guards Chancie Dunn, Dixon and Chelsea Lindsey combining for 15 of them — and only turned the ball over 12 times.
“Most of those shots I cannot create by myself, and that’s from my teammates,” she said. “Nikki had five assists, Chancie had six — they were finding me every which way, giving me open looks. Chelsea, as well.”
Smith said Dixon and Gramlich, in particular, had a special on-court chemistry.
“It’s like they have some kind of connection where (Dixon) can always find her for an open three, and Kelly did a phenomenal job of just catching the ball, shooting in rhythm and just staying confident,” she said.
Clemson came into the game on its first four-game win streak since the 2008 season, having won all four by six points or fewer, a first in school history. Against S.C. State, they made 7 of 10 attempts from beyond the arc (70 percent) in the first half to blow the game open early.
The Lady Tigers seized control with a 17-2 run to open the game, fueled by a trio of three-pointers by Gramlich.
Gramlich drilled her sixth three-pointer of the night with 14:32 left to give Clemson its largest lead to that point at 56-23. That shot tied the school single-game record, which she had also done as a freshman against North Carolina Central.
The seventh three of the day by Gramlich, which set the record, came with 9:49 left to play and stretched the Lady Tiger lead to 71-31.
Gramlich knocked down her eighth three-pointer with 2:55 to go, making it 82-41.
Ultimately, four Lady Tigers finished in double figures — Gramlich with 24, Nyilah Jamison-Myers with 17, and Dixon and Dunn with 12 apiece.
With that, Smith figures future opponents will at least think twice about going zone against the Lady Tigers.
“If Kelly keeps knocking down the three-ball like she’s knocking it down then they’re not going to do it,” she said.
And as far as Gramlich is concerned, that’s just fine with her.
“I always like it when teams play zone just because I get a lot of open looks, but I think it’s better for the team when teams play us in man,” Gramlich said. “So, I’m hoping that through me hitting threes, teams will come out of the zone more and play us in man because I think we’re more successful as a team against man.”
Gramlich raised her scoring average to 8.2 points per game with the performance — up from 5.1 per game last season — and admitted she felt she was thriving under her first-year head coach.
“I just think Coach Smith has found a good spot for me in this offense, and so I’m really grateful to her and I’m just trying to do my best,” Gramlich said. “The team’s been really coming together. This is the closest team I’ve been on here at Clemson, so we’re just really excited and ready to get out to Vegas.”
As she mentioned, the Lady Tigers’ next action will come in at the Duel in the Desert, a three-day tournament in Las Vegas, where they will face UNLV, Creighton and Oregon State on consecutive nights from Dec. 19-21.
Smith said the event would be “a phenomenal team-building opportunity” and also a chance for her players to test themselves in a tournament situation.
“We’re going to see three teams with three totally different styles,” Smith said. “We’ll see some zone, we’ll see some man, and we’ll see some pressure. We’re going to see it all.”
Here’s guessing they will see a little less zone than they might have before Saturday.