Clemson basketball is coming off of two difficult losses in the past week. One loss came at the hands of the #1 ranked and undefeated Syracuse Orangemen, where the Tigers put up a hard fight. The other loss came by way of a double overtime defeat from Notre Dame. Clemson is coming off a grueling stretch of 5 roads games of their past 6 games, and were in desperate need of a victory at home in Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Tigers had #17 ranked University of Virginia on the ropes for almost the entire game on Saturday, but ultimately could not hold on in the finals minutes and fell 63-58. The Tigers could just not seem to hit enough big shots, which seems to be a recurring pattern for them.
K.J. McDaniels was, yet again, outstanding in, yet another, loss. He had 24 points, including a clutch 3 pointer to put the Tigers down by 1 with 20 seconds to go. He also had a SportsCenter Top 10 worthy dunk that gave the Tigers some major momentum in the second half. Unfortunately, McDaniels, who was the only Tiger in double digits, found himself shouldering most of the offense.
The Tigers were short handed against the Cavaliers, since their big man Landry Nnoko was out with the flu. The Tigers, who were out rebounded by the Cavs 33-20, felt Nnoko’s absence.
The Cavaliers came in riding an 8 game win streak and with only one ACC loss. They play with a very similar style to the Tigers, but are usually more efficient on offense.
The Cavs struggled on offense, especially during the second half, where they found themselves in an offensive drought that the Tigers are all too familiar with finding themselves in. At the 10-minute mark of the 2nd half, the Cavs had one made basket. They patiently and calmly fought their way back from being down 43-37 to put together a 18-7 run in the last 10 minutes.
Aside from McDaniel’s clutch 3, the Tigers missed several big shots at the end of the game and that ultimately cost the game. The biggest missed shot was probably the too quick 3 pointer that Jordan Roper tried to take while there was still 10 seconds on the clock.
This is one of those games that will haunt the Tigers because they had it in their grasp. And they really needed this win. Right now, the Tigers are in Joe Lambardi’s “First 4 Out” of the NCAA Tournament. A win would have pushed them over into his “First 4 In”. The Tigers also have dropped their last 5 of 7 conference games, after starting ACC play 4-1.
The good news is that the hardest part of the Tigers’ schedule is behind them. They do not have much time to linger on this loss because they host North Carolina State at home on Tuesday. They only have 6 more games left in the regular season and will play 4 of them at home, which is where they play best.
The Tigers can no longer afford to lose these close games and only take away “moral victories”. They will need to find some true consistency in their offense to pull out victories in their remaining games, if they want to