It happened again.
After taking a commanding lead, Clemson (4-2) fell apart down the stretch with a chance to earn a resume-building win agaisnt West Virginia
Behind multiple scoring droughts and 20 turnovers, the Tigers couldn’t get out their way, allowing West Virginia room to rally back for a 66-59 victory in the third round of the Charleston Classic.
The Tigers led St. Bonaventure by 16 points on Friday. They also led West Virginia by 10 points on Sunday night with 14 minutes left. They wound up losing both games.
Clemson was able to dominate Sunday’s game offensively for the first 10 minutes, but between a seven-minute scoring drought and costly mental errors — 10 turnovers — that allowed West Virginia to take a 1-point lead heading into the break.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell felt his team got exposed, but they also did some good things throughout the tournament.
“We did some really good things, I thought defensively for a lot of the tournament, we were good,” he said. “We were pretty good today defensively against a pretty good team…Offensively, I think we are moving the ball well. I think we are trying to share it. There are times we take a few wild shots, but I’m trying to give this group some freedom. I think we shot the ball. We shot the ball over 50% again tonight, we just got to make sure we’re getting good attempts.”
After shooting just 2-of-11 from the field in Clemson’s 68-65 loss to No. 22 St. Bonaventure on Friday, Al-Amir Dawes appeared to bounce back.
In his postgame press conference Friday, Brownell indicated that he gives Dawes some leniency when it comes to shot taking. While he’d obviously like the decision-making to be better at times, Clemson firmly believes that the good from Dawes outweighs the bad.
Sunday was proof of that, at least for 25 minutes of the game, as he went completely cold in the second half. Dawes scored 18 points, but he also turned over the ball six times.
His lack of offensive presence contributed to Clemson falling apart in the game’s final 10 minutes.
Right out of the gate in the second half, Clemson came out firing on all cylinders. After coming out flat in for the final 20 minutes against the Bonnies on Friday, Clemson wanted to avoid a repeat of letting another winnable game slip away.
The Tigers jumped out to a 15-6 run to start off the game’s second frame. And while they were able to jump out to a 10-point lead, the Tigers had way too many empty possessions plagued by turnovers, allowing for the Mountaineers to eventually make their run.
At one point, the Tigers turned it over on five straight possessions.
Down the stretch of Sunday’s contest, P.J. Hall, Clemson’s leading scorer, and rebounder had to pull himself out of the game. Hall was clearly fatigued playing in his third game in four days. After taking a breather, he checked himself back into the game as a once-commanding 10-point lead dwindled down to just a possession.
While Hall found his way back onto the court, West Virginia took a 13-2 run to take an eventual 4-point lead at 60-56. Clemson went five minutes without a basket.
It proved to be foretelling.
Hall finished the game with 10 points and three rebounds in just 26 minutes played. He wasn’t the only player not feeling well, as the team and staff have battled some upper respiratory issues since arriving in Charleston.
Alex Hemenway missed the last two games due to an illness. Additionally, Brownell mentioned that Hunter Tyson and Chase Hunter have been battling out there, while both not being at 100%.
He didn’t want to use that as an excuse for Sunday’s result, though.
“We have enough guys healthy and ready to go that we can figure out ways to win and we didn’t get it done, coaches and players,” Brownell added. “This was a good learning experience for us…we got a bit rattled tonight…and we turned the ball over and gave the game away because of our lack of execution on offense.”
West Virginia didn’t do anything fancy in the second half. They shot 1-of-8 from beyond the arc and made just 40% of its shots from the field. The Mountaineers took advantage of Clemson’s carelessness with the basketball, scoring 10 points off 10 turnovers.
Down 62-59 and a chance to make a stop. Clemson trapped the Mountaineers in the corner. It was a great defensive effort, but it didn’t count. That was because the Tigers had six men on the court and were charged with a technical foul.
“I just apologized to my team,” Brownell said. “As a head coach, you never want to let your team down.”
That was the icing on the cake for a wounded Clemson team that couldn’t get out of its own way in the second half. Again.
After playing three games in four days, Clemson will have a chance to regroup before it heads home to host Charleston Southern this coming Friday at the Littlejohn Coliseum.