Clemson has now lost 3 straight games
Clemson’s hopes for a second straight NCAA Tournament bid took another blow Tuesday at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.
Needing a marque win to help its resume, and to stop a losing skid, the Tigers got neither as No. 16 Florida State rolled to a 77-64 victory. Clemson now must win its remaining five games to post a winning record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which includes home games against No. 8 North Carolina and Syracuse.
The Tigers have lost three straight games.
“We need to win a bunch of games here at the finish if we want to do what we want to do,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said afterward. “But, it has to start with one and we need to try to play better Saturday and figure out what is next.”
Terance Mann’s three-pointer with 15:01 to play in the first half gave the Seminoles a 6-4 lead and they never trailed again.
“It was a tough night tonight,” Brownell said. “We just did not play as well tonight as we have been playing in certain games and certainly a lot of that is because Florida State is playing at a very good level.
“They are playing with a lot of confidence physically. They are a lot to handle. They are big and strong at every position.”
FSU outrebounded Clemson 43-32 on the glass, while holding the Tigers to 38.3 percent shooting.
Clemson was led by Marcquise Reed’s 20 points. Elijah Thomas, who fouled out late, added 13 points and had six rebounds. Shelton Mitchell scored 12 points and had five assists, while David Skara had 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting from the field.
Trailing by as many as 18 points in the second half, the Tigers (15-11, 5-8 ACC) slowly got themselves back in the game. Thomas’ old-fashion three-point play pulled them within nine points, 59-50, with 8:44 to go and then Skara put back a Thomas miss to trim the lead to seven, 59-52, with 8:09 to play.
But Clemson could draw no closer. The Seminoles (21-5, 9-4) scored seven of the next eight points to grab back momentum, highlighted by Mfiondu Kabengele three-pointer. Kabengele finished the game with 19 points to lead FSU.
“I thought our kids tried. I thought we had energy. I thought we were ready,” Brownell said. “I thought we got demoralized in the first half when we could not score. I thought that really took some juice out of our guys, which is normal and I think it started to affect our defense.”
The Tigers got themselves in a hole after Florida State closed the first half on a 15-2 run to take a 38-23 lead at the break.
“Obviously, that is when it started to get away from us,” Brownell said. “We weren’t scoring, but we were hanging in there. We had a couple of offensive rebound baskets which allowed them to start to get away. I thought our first shot defense was okay for a while, but we just don’t pass the ball as well as we need to pass it.”
The Tigers struggled to shoot the ball in the opening 20 minutes, connecting on just 9-of-30 shots (30.0 percent). They were just 3 of 12 from three-point range.
Trailing, by nine points with 7:38 to play in the half, Mitchell drained a triple and was fouled on the shot to complete a four-point play. After an FSU miss, Reed went down and nailed a three of his own and all of sudden Clemson trailed by two, 23-21, with 6:19 to go in the half.
The Seminoles, who were led by Kabengele’s 12 first half points, then went on its 15-2 run to end the half and took control of the game. The Tigers finished the last six minutes of the first half 1-for-8 from the field.
FSU swept the season series with Clemson. The Tigers will host Boston College at noon on Saturday.