CHARLESTON, S.C. — It was there for the taking. An opportunity for a resume-building win slipped away.
In order to knock off a ranked opponent in a hostile environment, Clemson was going to need to go punch for punch with a legit tournament team and do so with some passion and intensity.
And while it did for the first half, including holding a 10-point lead at halftime, Clemson was unable to prevent No. 22, St. Bonaventure, from making its run. The Bonnies rallied back to knock off the Tigers in a 68-65 loss in the second round of the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic.
It was there for the taking. An opportunity for a resume-building win for the Tigers slipped away.
“This is certainly a disappointing loss because I thought we played really hard and really well for 25-30 minutes of the game, but we got beat by a team that executed better than we did down the stretch,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said postgame.
While this game was at a neutral site at TD Arena on the College of Charleston’s campus, it was pretty much a home game for the Bonnies. Their fans traveled over 13 hours to give the tournament the best crowd it’s likely ever seen.
Behind the crowd noise and the inability to miss from deep, St. Bonaventure pulled out an unlikely hard-fought win over a well-coached Clemson team.
“This was a great game for our team,” Brownell said. “You’re playing against an NCAA tournament team in an environment that feels a little bit like a road game. You got to make plays to beat them. You got to execute. Hopefully, we learn from it and hopefully, it makes us better, smarter, tougher. We didn’t make a couple of plays that we needed to make, in order, to beat a team of this caliber and to their credit, those guys kept playing.”
At one point in the first half, the Bonnies were down by 16 but they continued to claw back and proved why they’re one of the best 25 teams that college basketball has to offer this season.
P.J. Hall took over the game for the Tigers, but with the game on the line, the ball didn’t find his hands in back-to-back possessions. The sophomore forward had 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
“We had a terrible time guarding Hall,” St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt said postgame. “He’s really difficult to guard inside and out because if you double-team him, they have four guys who can make shots.”
Nick Honor, David Collins and Hunter Tyson combined for 32 points of their own. In need of a 3-pointer to tie the game at the end, Honor dribbled out into the corner and had a good look from deep. While he was perfect Thursday afternoon, his game-tying shot attempt was blocked and that was that.
It’s not what Brownell wanted, though.
“No, he should’ve just gone ahead and taken the 2,” he said. “We obviously ran a play with a coupled options to get 3s. His being the first. P.J. was another one. Then, we told him if you don’t feel comfortable with the 3, drive it in the paint…Nick should’ve just laid it in with 5 seconds to go…he just made a poor choice, ultimately that’s on me. That’s obviously not what we wanted to do.”
While Clemson struggled offensively, they also had no answer for the Bonnies on the defensive end in the second half. That was after the Tigers held St. Bonaventure to just 26 first-half points.
The Bonnies shot just 4-of-12 (33.3%) from beyond the arc in the game’s first frame. Then, a switch flipped at halftime and St. Bonaventure couldn’t miss from deep. The Bonnies finished the game 14-of-24 (58.3%) from 3-point land.
Coming into Friday afternoon’s game, the Bonnies were shooting just 21.7% from deep. The first half was reminiscent of that and then, for whatever reason, they just couldn’t miss.
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap. And while the Tigers did what they could to stay in the game, the team’s lack of offensive success in the second half was what ultimately did them in. After shooting over 50% from beyond the arc in the first half, Clemson finished a cool 9-of-23.
Among those misses were from Al-Amir Dawes, who shot just 2-of-11 from the field, including going 2-of-7 from beyond the arc.
“A little bit,” Brownell said when asked if he would’ve liked Dawes’ shot selection to be better. “I mean, Al’s one of those guys that I give some leash. He’s a guy that makes a lot of shots for us…throughout his career, he’s probably a 40% 3-point shooter, so he’s gonna have a few that are gonna be a little bit looser than some other guys, but we didn’t execute or make them today.”
Behind a 21-2 run, St. Bonaventure was able to take a 58-53 lead. Clemson went on a scoring drought that lasted over six minutes.
From there, the Bonnies took control of the game. Clemson tied the game at 63 all with less than a minute to play, but it couldn’t overcome the second-half prowess of the Bonnies.
Bonnies senior guard Kyle Lofton led St. Bonaventure with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in 40 minutes of play. Senior guards Jalen Adaway and Jaren Holmes combined for 33 of the team’s 68 points.
Clemson will have a good opportunity to bounce back against the loser of the Marquette-West Virginia game on Sunday.
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