Monday Morning Quarterback
If you have not gotten behind this year’s Clemson basketball team, you need to.
Sunday night’s come-from-behind, 72-70, win at Georgia Tech was a huge win for a program that won its fourth game away from Littlejohn Coliseum this year and has already equaled last year’s overall win total.
I can understand why some people would not get behind the squad early this year when they rolled to an 11-1 start in non-conference play. Granted it was a tough non-conference slate with road win at Ohio State and Florida and a home win over South Carolina, but it was not the ACC. You have seen this movie before. Let’s see how the Tigers do when conference play starts up, right?
Then the Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 mark in ACC play. A few backers started to take notice and when Clemson played Notre Dame on Jan. 20, Littlejohn was packed. People seemed to finally get behind this team. Things were going well.
Then star player Donte Grantham tore his ACL, and all the love the Tigers were receiving quickly went away as doubt crept back in. It did not help that Clemson struggled badly in its first game without Grantham, a 25-point loss at Virginia.
No one believed anymore, and quickly fans started jumping off the bandwagon.
Hopefully, Sunday’s win at Georgia Tech got a few more people back on. Georgia Tech had already defeated two-ranked opponents at the McCamish Pavilion this year in Miami and Notre Dame and it seem poised to beat the Tigers when it jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first half and was shooting 73-percent from the floor.
But Clemson slowly chipped away at the deficit and thanks to 18 first-half points from Gabe DeVoe, who finished with a career-high 25, the Tigers trailed by just two points at the break, 38-36.
In the second half, Elijah Thomas got a couple of quick baskets to put Clemson on top with an early 7-0 run, while Marcquise Reed dropped in 11 of his 13 points in the last 20 minutes. Reed also made back-to-back steals and outlet them ahead to Shelton Mitchell and DeVoe for easy baskets, while giving the Tigers some breathing room.
Reed finished the game with 11 assists, the most in the Brad Brownell era, while Mitchell had 17 points and was 4-of-6 from three-point range. DeVoe was 5-of-8 from behind the arc and was 10-for-15 overall from the field.
Clemson as a team made 10-of-21 threes against the ACC’s best three-point percentage defense coming into the game.
When Tech rallied late in the game and tied things up at 70 with under a minute to play, Reed made a heads up play when he noticed a power forward was guarding him. He dribbled past the Yellow Jackets’ big man and laid in what turned out to be the game-winner with 25 seconds left to play.
“This was a good win,” Brownell said afterward. “We obviously had to deal with a lot of things here with Donte, who is really our leader and probably best player in terms of just everything he does. But our guys have continued to battle. We had to change some things in the way we play, not drastically, but there are some subtleties that Donte brings to our team, that is why he is unique. He is 6-foot-8 and does a lot of different types of things that just most people don’t have guys that can do that.
“I was just proud of the way our guys competed tonight. We just hung in there. It did not go well for a long time and all of sudden we look up and we are only down two points at the half. We felt fortunate to only be down two and we felt we were in good position to win the game if we could play a better second half and I think we did.”
The Tigers are now 17-4 overall and 6-3 in the ACC. They have five wins over top 40 RPI teams and are 9-4 vs. top 100 teams. They are currently just a half a game back of second place in the ACC standings at the halfway point of the season.
Clemson is in great position to make the NCAA Tournament this year and maybe do a few more things. Don’t you think it’s finally time to get behind this team?