Another quality opportunity awaits Clemson hoops in ACC opener

Another quality opportunity awaits Clemson hoops in ACC opener

Basketball

Another quality opportunity awaits Clemson hoops in ACC opener

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Give Brad Brownell this much. At least he was honest.

“No, not really,” Brownell said when asked if he likes where Clemson’s men’s basketball team is heading into ACC play.

The Tigers’ 12th-year coach then explained why following his team’s latest loss. 

“I thought we were going to play well,” he said. “I thought the signs were there.

“I just thought we were on our heels most of the night, and I didn’t see that coming. I thought we practiced really well and played well in our last game.”

That didn’t translate over for Clemson (5-3), which lost for the third time in four games Tuesday against Rutgers as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. It was the latest struggle against a comparable level of competition for the Tigers, who’ve lost all three games they’ve played against top-100 KenPom teams heading into Saturday’s noon game at Miami.

The most recent one didn’t have the same feel to it.

A 32-point rout of two-win Charleston Southern the day after Thanksgiving is the only win the Tigers have in the last two weeks. Before that, Clemson started the Charleston Classic with a convincing victory over Temple. But the Tigers finished the tournament 1-2 after coughing up double-digit leads against then-No. 16 St. Bonaventure (which went on to win the tournament) and Bob Huggins’ West Virginia squad. 

Rutgers gave Clemson another chance to notch a quality non-conference win away from home, but the Tigers were the ones having to play catch-up for most of the time Tuesday. Clemson’s last lead came with 4 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half, and Rutgers extended its advantage to as many as 11 points in the second before notching a 10-point win.

Clemson, with the help of David Collins’ 18 points and 10 rebounds, got within one with a little more than 12 minutes left, but the Tigers, one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country coming in, went just 4 of 18 from deep and didn’t have the services of sophomore big PJ Hall down the stretch. Clemson’s leading scorer played just 19 minutes because of foul trouble and went out permanently with 4:07 left, finishing with 10 points — matching his second-lowest point total of the season — and four boards.

“He’s played really well most of the year for us. Just wasn’t his night,” Brownell said. “Obviously we’re a different team when he’s not out there. He could be our best player, and he’s probably our most valuable player. He’s a guy that we need out there because of his size and what he brings to the table offensively scoring around the basket.”

Miami (5-3) presents Clemson with yet another opportunity to grab a resume-building win, though the early going has been just as mixed of a bag for the Hurricanes. Miami, ranked 99th in KenPom for the time being, has already lost to Central Florida at home and was blown out by Dayton and Alabama. The Hurricanes, led by senior guard Kameron McGusty (16.8 points per game), redeemed themselves with a road win at Penn State their last time out Wednesday.

After Saturday’s game, Clemson will play its last three non-conference games before resuming league play at Virginia on Dec. 22. Brownell knows his team has to start taking advantage of its quality opportunities.

“The ones we’ve lost are already gone,” Brownell said. “We need to learn from it.”

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