When Marcquise Reed and his fellow teammates look back at this season, they will think about what could have been.
Sunday’s 63-55 loss to Wichita State in the second round of the NIT was a microcosm of the entire 2018-’19 season for Clemson. The Tigers were so close to being a great team, but yet so far away, too.
“We were just one or two possessions away,” Reed said in Sunday’s postgame interview at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson. “In the games that we lost, we were just one or two possessions away. It just shows that we are still a competitive team, but like I said, we were just one possession away from being great.”
The Tigers, which finished the season 20-14, lost six games this year by two points or less. They literally were a couple of possessions from being a great team. However, they could not make the big shots or get that key stop when they needed to.
There were such high hopes for Clemson after last year’s Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament, especially with Reed, Shelton Mitchell, Elijah Thomas and David Skara all returning for their senior seasons.
However, the basketball did not bounce their way. They lost at Miami on a last-second shot that was banked off the glass. They lost at NC State on a lucky last-second shot. Then there was the questionable call that went against them with 2.6 seconds left in the one-point loss to NC State in the ACC Tournament.
“There is no question that we as a team couldn’t quite finish enough games to have a great season,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “We did a lot of good things throughout the year. We won a lot of good games. We beat most of the teams we were supposed to beat, but certainly, there were four, five, six games that were down to the last minute, thirty seconds, five seconds that if you find a way to make a shot or get one stop or get a call and then maybe things will go your way and the season is different and we are playing in the big tournament or whatnot.
“But it did not go that way, so we have to dust ourselves off and go for what’s next.”
Of course, Clemson was at blame for a lot of the losses too. Like in Sunday’s loss to Wichita State, the Tigers went stretches where they could not buy a basket.
Though Clemson was right there and had a chance to win on Sunday, poor shooting kept them from getting over the top. The Tigers made just 28.3 percent of their 53 attempts on Sunday and were just 2-for-14 from behind the arc.
Down three with 1:17 left in the game, Clemson got the ball down low to Thomas for what appeared to be a sure bucket. But the 6-foot-9 senior missed the shot.
“I thought we certainly would have shot better,” Brownell said. “We did not anticipate Shelton would be playing through (pain) as much as he played through. I think we hoped, and we thought, and I think he even thought, he would be a little fresher and have a little more pop. That was partly his struggles.
“That is part of basketball. Obviously, when your lead guard does not have quite the pop, it takes away a little bit from the other guys. That was probably the most challenging thing for our team, especially offensively. We needed to shoot it a little bit better.”