By Will Vandervort.
There is one thing you can count on usually when a big-name team comes to Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame is usually going to play well.
Five times in the last year when a big-name team from the ACC or the SEC has come to town, Blossomgame has played well. And when he does, most of the time the Tigers have won.
Clemson is 4-1 in those games and on Saturday the Tigers hope Blossomgame continues the trend when they host 19th-ranked North Carolina at 8:15 p.m. in Littlejohn Coliseum.
“I’m not really sure what it is,” the redshirt sophomore said on Friday. “It doesn’t happen in every game because it is basketball.”
Blossomgame’s best game came against No. 16 Duke last January, when he scored 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Tigers’ 72-59 victory. A year removed from a broken leg, his performance stunned everyone and proved he has it in him to take a game over and become a player Clemson can count on.
He also scored seven points and had six rebounds in a win over NC State later in the season and then scored 14 points and had six rebounds in an overtime loss to Pitt in the regular-season finale. He was 5 of 10 from the field in that game.
“In the big games that I have played well, I think it was preparation and being mentally focused before the game,” Blossomgame said.
Whatever it was, it worked and that same approach is working this season as well.
He was focused in the Tigers’ home wins over then No. 18 Arkansas and Auburn last month. The power forward scored 17 points and had eight rebounds against the Razorbacks, while scoring 12 points and securing 10 rebounds against Auburn.
And though it was not against a big-name team, Blossomgame followed those good outings with a career-high 26 points on 8 of 10 shooting, along with a 3-for-3 night from behind the arc, while also making 7 of his 8 free throw attempts in the Tigers’ win over Oakland on Dec. 22.
Blossomgame has scored at least 10 points in 11 of Clemson’s 12 games this year, including 11 straight games of at least 10 or more points.
“I have been confident and have stayed focused. I have been playing really well,” he said. “I can’t get too consumed with myself, my stats and that stuff. I just have to play to win and play as a team.”
Blossomgame is averaging 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a game heading in the ACC part of the schedule.