The Clemson basketball team had a red hot start this season, even knocking off the then 13th ranked Duke Blue Devils at home. But since that win, the Tigers have been ice cold on offense. They squeaked out wins over Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, but have been pummeled on the road by Pitt and UNC by a combined 52 points. They are looking for their first road win in their series of 5 ACC road games, and some revenge against the Noles, who embarrassed the Tigers at home a few weeks ago.
The Tigers are looking for something—anything—to get them going on offense. Hopefully that ‘something’ will come in the form of superstar player KJ McDaniels and a little help from the rest of his team. Playing against the Seminoles seems to bring out the best in McDaniels. His highest scoring average against an ACC opponent was against FSU. He has played the Noles six times and has averaged 13 points and 6 rebounds.
The most incredible stat McDaniels has to offer this season is that he is believed to be the only player in the country who is leading his team in scoring, blocks, rebounds, steals and 3-pointers. The Tigers will need him at his best against the Seminoles on Saturday. But he cannot do it on his own; the rest of his team needs to step up.
McDaniels has been carrying the Tigers for the majority of the season and when asked after the Tiger’s loss in Chapel Hill if McDaniels was frustrated enough to question his team for some offensive help, Coach Brad Brownell said “It’ll come. He’s not frustrated enough yet. He’s too nice a guy. But he’ll get to a point where if it continues, he will (rally his teammates.) We need a little bit of that. The players from within have to have some spirit and fight on their own. They need to be hurting over this.”
The Tigers heavily rely on their strong defense to win their games, but they cannot expect to shoot 34% from the floor, like the Tigers did against Chapel Hill, and think they can win games in the ACC.
The Tigers know they have to get McDaniels some help. After the UNC game, center Landry Nnoko said “We all gotta help him….He’s done a really good job but we’ve got to find more guys to help carry this team.” And when McDaniels was told during the post game press conference that he couldn’t expect to continue to carry his team, McDaniels, ever humble, just grimaced.
McDaniels is looking for any kind of offensive help to come from his teammates. The center Nnoko has stepped up rebounding under the basket but needs to finish those easy shots. Junior Rod Hall continues to improve, and has increased how many shots he puts up (he is taking about 16% of the team’s shots). The last few games though, nothing he puts up seems to find its way into the basket. Redshirt freshman Jaron Blossomgame has shown a lot of promise but nothing consistent on either end of the floor. Josh Smith and Jordan Roper have struggled from the floor. Devin Coleman has transferred and Patrick Rooks is out for the season with injury, who were two of the Tigers’ shooters last year.
Brownell said after the UNC game, “You just gotta make more shots. When you’re not doing that, it puts unbelievable pressure on your defense. It’s hard to keep defending at a high level, especially on the road, when you just don’t get any reward and feel like.” For the Tigers to beat the Noles on Saturday, the Tigers cannot expect McDaniels to shoulder their offense. Other players are going to have to step up, make plays and put the ball in the basket.
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