By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
When he looked up and saw Michael Snaer throw up a 28-foot shot just as time was expiring Thursday night, Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels thought it had no chance to go in the basket.
“From where I was standing, it did not look like it was going in,” he said.
And it shouldn’t have, but it did. The ball was three feet from the basket, but it hit the backboard and somehow banked in, giving Florida State an improbable, 60-57, victory over Clemson at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee, FL.
“The guy just makes a guarded shot from 28 feet. He misses it by three feet and it banks in,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said Friday. “It was a very difficult and heartbreaking loss.”
It was heartbreaking because the Tigers (10-8, 2-4 ACC) should not have lost it. Clemson was in control of the game from the 10-minute mark of the first half on. Trailing 16-13, the Tigers went on a 16-0 run, in which Brownell called some of the best basketball his team has played all year.
Clemson led by as many as 13 points in the first half, and by 12, 11 and 10 points in the second half. But foul trouble, especially to seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, got Clemson out of its rhythm offensively. Thanks to being in the double bonus the last 14 minutes of the game, the Seminoles slowly crawled back in the game and tied things up at 44-44 with about six minutes to go.
“The thing I was pleased about was the way our guys responded,” Brownell said. “It was 44 all with six minutes to go, and I think a month ago we probably would have folded. We still executed and made some good offensive plays. Give them credit, they made some shots, too and they made free throws down the stretch.
“The end of it was frustrating in a bunch of ways.”
After Jordan Roper drained a jump shot with 58 seconds to play, giving Clemson a 57-54 lead at the time, Brownell explained to his team during a Florida State timeout that they cannot give up a three-point shot.
But that’s exactly what happened when Devon Bookert nailed a three with 43 seconds to play after Clemson guard Adonis Filer left him alone to close in on Snaer, who was penetrating the lane.
“A freshman made a mistake,” Brownell said. “We left a shooter on penetration and we should not have. We gave up a three.”
The Tigers still had a chance to take the lead and called a timeout with 15 seconds left on the shot clock and 23 left in the game. Brownell drew up a play to get the ball inside to Booker or have McDaniels drive the ball inside and try to make something happen.
That didn’t happen, either. Instead McDaniels passed up the open dribble drive at the top of the key and handed the basketball off to guard Rod Hall, who had a lane open to the basket to drive it as well. But Hall passed it back to McDaniels, who was sitting outside the three-point line. With the shot clock showing four seconds left, the sophomore threw up a prayer that came nowhere near going in.
“We don’t have guys feeling 100 percent comfortable making a play at the end of a game,” Brownell said. “It was kind of like a couple of guys maybe hoping and looking to throw it into Book or something and then all of a sudden guys are hoping to make a play and nobody is making a play and we end up with a terrible possession.”
McDaniels says the issues that have crept up in tight games, especially in the last two, can be chalked up to a young team still trying to find where it is at and where it wants to go.
“That’s about us maturing,” he said. “We have to be able to step up and do that more. We have to develop better practice habits and be more aggressive in practice. It all starts with practice.”
Until that happens, though, Clemson will have to live with what happened Thursday night.
“It was really disappointing. Our guys are very down,” Brownell said. “It’s a disappointed locker room as you can imagine. It was not good.
“A big part of us trying to win the game on Sunday is somehow rallying the troops and that’s what we have to go about doing today.”
The Tigers will host Virginia Tech at 1 p.m. Sunday in Littlejohn Coliseum.