By Will Vandervort
Heading into the Boston College game on Feb. 2, Clemson was one of the best teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference at taking care of the basketball. The Tigers were yielding just 11 turnovers a game and for that reason they were sitting at 4-4 in the conference and 12-8 overall.
But the Tigers have somehow lost their focus and now, a once prideful team when it came to taking care of the basketball, can’t stop all the fumbles, bumbles and mistakes that have led to a three-game losing streak.
“Yeah, it has been a problem. We have turned it over too many times,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said Wednesday.
During this three-game losing streak, which they hope to end at Georgia Tech on Thursday night, the Tigers have turned the ball over 51 times – that’s 17 per game for those doing the math at home.
“Obviously, we have talked about it in practice,” Brownell said. “It was a crushing start to our game at Virginia, but it is something we have to do better. We are not a good enough team to waste possessions. We had some loose possessions and we had some guys that did not play well.
“Offensively, our decision making was poor… That is something we have to correct. We are not good enough to be making more than 10, 11 or 12 turnovers in a game.”
There is something to that. In the first eight ACC games, Clemson averaged only 11.9 turnovers a game and that stayed consistent in both the wins and losses. With the exception of Duke—a 28-point loss—the Tigers had a chance to win seven of the eight games.
The best game was at NC State, where they had a season-low six turnovers. Brownell said that was his team’s best game from an offensive standpoint.
“Sometimes playing on the road lends itself to turning the ball over,” he said. “That’s why I think we played so well at NC State. I think we only had six turnovers in the game and we played a terrific game. We were very efficient offensively in terms of getting shots.”
Clemson (12-11, 4-7 ACC) wasn’t efficient at all at Virginia on Feb. 7. The Tigers turned the basketball over a season-high 19 times and took itself out of the game by halftime when 15 of those 19 turnovers occurred in the first 20 minutes.
Freshman guard Jordan Roper, who scored a career-high 17 points in last Sunday’s loss to NC State, says the turnovers come from a lack of confidence when the basketball is in their hands.
“I think you just have to know what you are doing,” he said. “Coach Brownell talks about being 100 percent sure when you are passing. Make sure they are good passes and know what you are doing when you pick up your dribble to make a pass.
“Sometimes, I don’t do that myself, but that is what we all have to do. We have to be 100 percent sure when we move the ball.”
What magnifies the Tigers issues even more, most of the turnovers are unforced ones, like illegal screens, bad decision making with the basketball and carelessness – like lane violations and traveling.
“In the game, it is a lack of being confident and having confidence with the ball,” Roper said. “We have had some unforced turnovers a lot and some of those were us trying to make plays, like myself. All we can do is stay positive and cut down on those turnovers like we have done before.”
Brownell admits there are a lot of reasons as to why the turnovers are happening. They can be blamed on youth or experience, especially at key times in a game. But regardless these issues have to get corrected if they want to position themselves for a better seed in next month’s ACC Tournament.
Right now, Clemson sits in eighth place in the ACC standings, tied with Wake Forest and a half-game ahead of Georgia Tech.
“Some of it is a product of your personnel and what their strengths are,” the Clemson coach said. “You are going to have guys that are trying to make plays and occasionally you are going to have turnovers, but you also have some that you can’t have and we have had a few of those.”