By Staff Reports.
If Tuesday night’s trip to Pittsburgh is any indication of what life on the road is going to be like for Clemson over the next three weeks, then the Tigers could be in trouble.
Clemson, who came into the road trip with a three-game winning streak, began a stretch of playing five road games over the next six with an embarrassing, 76-43, loss to No. 20 Pitt at the Peterson’s Event Center in Pittsburgh.
The Panthers led by as many as 34 points in the second half.
Pitt’s offense was very efficient against a Clemson defense that came in as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s best scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and three-point percentage defense. The Panthers, led by Talib Zanna’s 22 points, shot 56.3 percent from the field, while also connecting on 8 of 15 three-pointers (53.3 percent).
“Credit goes to them, they made more shots tonight than they have in the past,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “When you play with a big lead, it is easier to shoot well and we just did not put up much residence tonight. It was really a disappointing performance.”
The 56.3 percent shooting by Pitt was the highest against a Brad Brownell coached Clemson team. The Panthers’ 76 points were the most given up by the Tigers this season as well.
“We just got beat all the way around,” Brownell said. “We got outcoached, outplayed and out toughed. It was not a good performance.”
What kind of night was it for Clemson? Trailing by 17 points to open the second half, the Tigers played perhaps their best possession of defense to that point. But as the shot clock was winding down, Pitt’s Lamar Patterson threw up a prayer from behind the three-point line that went splashing down, giving the Panthers a 40-20 lead.
It only got worse from there. The Tigers turned the ball over four times in the first eight minutes of the second half and made just 1 of 8 shots during that same span.
Clemson (13-5, 4-2 ACC) finished the game shooting just 29.6 percent from the field, while turning the ball over 14 times, 12 of those came in the first 28 minutes of the game. The Tigers were just 4 of 19 from behind the arc and only 7 of 14 from the foul line.
K.J. McDaniels led Clemson with 11 points, four rebounds and three assists.
“Sometimes against a team like (Pitt) you have to take open shots when you have it,” Brownell said. “Because we are not a great shooting team, our guys, when they feel pressure, they put their head down and try to go to the rim and when you play a good defensive team that is usually going to result in a turnover. I think that’s what happened.
“We need to make some jump shots when they play the way they did. We just kept getting faster and faster and loose and a lot of that credit goes to Pitt.”
Pitt (17-2, 5-1) outscored the Tigers 24-6 in points off turnovers and had a 24-9 edge in assist. The Panthers had only 10 turnovers in the game.
“They are a great passing team. They move it,” Brownell said. “They will run you around a little bit and have great ball-screen stuff that they will run at you. They have you on your heels because they have some many guys that can make plays off of ball screens. Patterson and (James) Robinson is like having two point guards out there with great size so they see around you.”
It wasn’t much better in the first half as the Tigers trailed 37-20 at the break. They could do nothing right in the opening 20 minutes, either. McDaniels got in early foul trouble and the team struggled without him, shooting only 8 of 23 from the field, including 2 of 9 from three-point range.
“I thought the atmosphere bothered us a little bit,” Brownell said. “We had some crazy turnovers in the first half that showed our nervousness and youth. That really rattled us and it was hard to get our composure back.”
Clemson also turned the ball over eight times in the opening half, including six in the first 10 minutes which allowed Pitt to build leads of 14, 17 and 19 points before halftime.
After Rod Hall hit a three-pointer from the right corner to cut the lead to 28-18, the Panthers went on a 9-0 run, which ended when McDaniels hit a floater in the lane in the last 30 seconds of the half.
“When you are playing with a huge lead at home with the way we were struggling, it was pretty comfortable for them the whole night,” Brownell said.
Tuesday’s loss was the first of three straight road games for the Tigers. Their next game will be at North Carolina this coming Sunday before traveling to Florida State on Feb. 1.