Clemson hoops takes well-timed breather

Clemson hoops takes well-timed breather


Clemson hoops takes well-timed breather


Clemson’s men’s basketball team has been going hard for a while amid its surprise season.

For the last five weeks and change, the Tigers have been on the same midweek-weekend schedule when it comes to competition. The last time Clemson had more than three days in between games was late December and early January when the Tigers played NC State and Virginia Tech five days apart.

Now Clemson has a chance to catch its collective breath.

The Tigers (18-6, 10-3 ACC) won’t follow up their loss to Miami over the weekend with the usual Tuesday or Wednesday game. Instead, Clemson has a full week off before returning to action Saturday at North Carolina. It’s a well-timed break for the Tigers before they embark on an all-important home stretch of the regular season.

“We need a week to hopefully get a little more healthy and rest a little bit,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said.

Clemson is coming off back-to-back losses – the first time that’s happened this season – but still finds itself as the hunted in the conference. The Tigers lead Virginia and Pitt by half a game atop the league standings, so no matter what happens around the ACC during the midweek slate of games, Clemson will go into the weekend with at least a share of first place.

The Tigers have seven games left to try to pull off what would be just their second regular-season conference title in program history, but it won’t be easy. UNC is one of four road games left for Clemson, which also has to travel to NC State and Virginia later this month.

“It would be a heck of an accomplishment,” Brownell said. “I know we have one banner in our gym for a regular-season title, so it’d be pretty neat to have another one. But we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve had a hard last couple of weeks, and we’ve got to get ourselves back right and playing really good basketball here down the stretch to put ourselves in position to have a chance.”

The Tigers are also playing for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, but it’s not just a recharging of the batteries that Clemson hopes to benefit from this week. The down time will also give the Tigers a chance to heal up the injuries they’re still nursing, particularly in the backcourt.

Clemson is whole again with Chase Hunter, Alex Hemenway and Brevin Galloway recently returning to the lineup, though Brownell and his players said all three are still trying to get back up to speed after missing significant time. Hunter, the team’s second-leading scorer, has played the last three games after missing three straight with a sprained ankle while Galloway (testicular torsion) missed Clemson’s last two road games before returning against Miami.

Meanwhile, Hemenway, the Tigers’ top 3-point shooter, missed 10 straight games while dealing with a bout of plantar fasciitis before returning against Boston College last week. Hemenway has scored just six points on 2 of 7 shooting in his first two games back, and Hunter has shot just 26.9% from the floor with more turnovers (7) than assists (6) since his 26-point return at Florida State.

“Just trying to get the pieces back in place,” senior forward Hunter Tyson said.

The team had its first two practices back at full strength leading up to the Miami game, and Brownell said he’s looking forward to more this week as the Tigers try to get back in sync. There were some uncharacteristic breakdowns in alignment and execution against the Hurricanes, Brownell said, where the rust was evident.

“We haven’t had many days other than the last two (before Miami) to get whole,” Brownell said. “We actually made a couple of mistakes on some things we were running where some of it might be a lack of reps for guys through practice.”

Clemson will try to rectify some of that this week as well as work on its problem areas. For the first time in a long time, the Tigers have more time than usual.

“It’ll be huge,” Tyson said. “We need to go at each other a little bit. I’m sure we will. I’m sure Coach Brownell will make sure we’re ready to go next Saturday.”

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