On Tuesday night, the Clemson basketball team played at home in Littlejohn Coliseum for the first time in 17 days. They faced off against conference foe, Georgia Tech. The game was going to be a turning point for the team, who has lost 2 of its past 3 ACC teams. The Tigers needed another win to keep their tournament hopes alive. It was also important to see how the Tigers would respond after a rough two weeks on the road, with a struggling offense.
K.J. McDaniels has been the backbone of the Tigers’ offense this year and has received very little help offensively from the rest of his team. On Tuesday, when McDaniels struggled to put up his usual numbers on offense, he finally got a little bit of help from his teammates. He was 3 for 14 and only put up 8 points.
Jordan Roper, a sophomore guard, was a standout at Irmo High School in Columbia. Roper is no stranger to leading his team in points, and is especially good from behind the 3-point line. He was second all time in scoring for the famed South Carolina basketball program, first place is B.J. McKie. McKie went on to be the leading scorer for the University of South Carolina. Roper averaged 8 points a game last season, but has struggled offensively so far this season.
On Tuesday, Roper stepped up when he needed to and led the team with 12 points off the bench, lifting the Tigers to a 45-41 victory. Roper had multiple 3 pointers for the second game in a row and he reached double digits for the 8th time this season. Roper is continuing to improve and gain confidence as the season progresses, which is encouraging for the struggling Tigers offense.
Landry Nnoko had a good game, putting up 7 points, grabbing five rebounds (4 were offensive rebounds) and took his first charge of the season. Jaron Blossomgame also took another charge for the Tigers and grabbed nine rebounds.
Although it was a low scoring game and the Tigers only shot 32% on offense, it was a hard-fought defensive battle. There is hardly a team in the country that can rival the Tigers in terms of heart and determination. The Tigers continue to give their all every time they are on the court.
It may have been a frustrating game for Tiger fans to watch (or maybe a frustrating season to watch), it was encouraging to see some of other Tiger players step up on the offensive end. It is promising to watch this young Tiger team to fight and to continue to look better. They have come back strongly from some discouraging losses this season.
Clemson Coach Brad Brownell knows that the fans would rather see a high scoring shootout. “There’s no doubt, people want to see baskets made. Shoot, we want to be making baskets. But, at the same time, there is an appreciation that grows with fans when they’re watching kids defend at a high level consistently,” Brownell said.
It is more enjoyable for the fans to watch a defensive battle, when it means a Tigers victory, which is what the Tigers have done a lot of this season. They are 15-6 overall and 6-3 in the ACC this season.
The Tigers will need to use this momentum from their win over Georgia Tech and bring their A+ game as they travel up to Carrier Dome on Sunday to take on the number 1 nationally ranked Orangemen. The Tigers played their best game of the season when they knocked off the #16 ranked Duke Blue Devils a few weeks ago. If the Tigers want to have a chance against the Orange, they will have to play like they played against Duke…except even better.