Based on history, Clemson’s ACC opener agaisnt the University of Miami was going to come down to the wire.
And, it did. Though, it wasn’t the result that the Tigers had hoped for.
In the final minutes of another crushing defeat for Brad Brownell’s squad, Miami went on a 19-3 run to rally back for an 80-75 win over Clemson (5-4. 0-1 ACC) on Saturday afternoon.
“To be honest with you, their offensive efficiency or our struggle defensively in the second half was the reason we lost the game,” Brownell said postgame.
The Tigers let a game that it once led by nine (70-61) with just over five minutes remaining slip away.
It happened against St. Bonaventure. It happened against West Virginia. It happened again on Saturday vs. Miami.
The Tigers, in desperate need of a bounce-back game after a 74-64 loss at Rutgers on Tuesday night, handed yet another game away. For a team that’s running out of opportunities, it was imperative to get off to a solid start in ACC play.
Well, they did for about 36 minutes. Until the team’s two biggest bugaboos this season — scoring droughts and turnovers — did them in again.
“Offensively, I thought we played fairly well for most of the time,” Brownell said. “We’ve had some issues with turnovers and passing. It’s something we’ve actually been working on, basic passing and fundamentals of passing and different drills for the first 15 minutes of practice every day for a month. Unfortunately, it reared its head today. The turnovers, I thought were the major factor offensively for why we struggled.”
Anytime it appeared that Clemson was going to push the game to a double-digit lead. Miami answered. Of course, the Hurricanes scoring 21 points off 18 Tigers’ turnovers certainly helped them eventually take control of Saturday’s contest.
Needing to come out strong and start fast, Clemson headed into halftime with a 6-point lead at 40-34.
Offensively, the Tigers shot 14-of-29 (48.3%) from the field and 7-of-12 (58.3%) from deep in the first frame. It was the type of offensive surge that Clemson needed, in order to take control of Saturday’s game.
At the start of the game, there appeared to be a lid on the rim with baskets hard to come by. That changed rather quickly, though. Instead, Clemson’s first conference matchup of the season turned into a free-flowing offensive contest.
That was until Clemson went ice cold in the second half, shooting just 2-of-9 (22.2%) from deep as the lid reformed on the basket for the Tigers.
Even with that, Clemson had four scorers in double figures, dominated Miami on the boards 39-21, scored 36 points in the paint and turned in 18 second-chance points.
And yet, it still wasn’t enough.
P.J. Hall, Hunter Tyson, David Collins and Chase Hunter combined for 58 of Clemson’s 75 points. However, without Aamir Simms, Clemson is still searching for its table-setter, someone to go to with the game on the line.
“I think we’re still trying to figure out and have confidence in somebody offensively that can settle us down,” Brownell said. “We’ve gone to P.J. a lot and in some games, he’s really delivered. He played well today. I don’t think he played great, but he played well. I see our team looking around a little bit. There’s just not quite the confidence at the end of games that good teams have.”
Hall scored 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field. He went 0-of-4 from deep, including an ill-advised shot from beyond the arc with Clemson down by three, late in Saturday’s game.
“I think P.J.’s our best player,” Brownell added. “He’s our most valuable guy. He’s a guy that has to emerge in that role. We’re going through the little growing pains of a young guy developing into a great player. That probably hurts us a little bit in a couple of these situations.”
As for Clemson’s second-leading scorer, Al-Amir Dawes scored six points and added four assists, playing a season-low 24 minutes. Though, Brownell indicated that had more to do with the emergence of Hunter than Dawes’ play Saturday.
Hunter had 15 points of his own on 5-of-7 shooting, including knocking down 3-of-4 shots from beyond the arc. Coming into Saturday, he hadn’t made a shot from deep all season.
“I thought Chase was playing very well,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of this out of Chase in practice, really for about a year and a half. It just hasn’t translated. He’s been a little nervous. He’s had a little anxiety with it. For whatever reason, it hasn’t been able to translate, but we’ve known this was coming. He’s a good player. He’s a guy that has played consistently well in practice for the last couple of weeks. I thought he had a pretty efficient game.”
Going forward, what needs to change so Clemson can close out some of these closer games down the stretch?
“I don’t know that I can say that it’s one thing,” Brownell said. “I think we’ve had a couple of games were offensively, we haven’t played as well. The turnovers are a problem offensively for us…I think the turnovers are hurting us. It’s not every game, but they rear their head when you don’t need them.”
In order to keep its season alive, Clemson will need to bounce back in next Saturday’s matchup against Drake at State Farm Arena (Atlanta, GA.) as part of the Holiday Hoopsgiving quadruple-header.