Clemson lost yet another heartbreaker to Miami in Littlejohn on Sunday evening 45-43. This one may have stung even more against the #3 ranked Miami Hurricanes as the Tigers missed out on an opportunity to end the ‘Canes perfect ACC record. Following Jordan Roper’s full court drive and lay-up, the Tigers found themselves with a 42-38 lead at the 2:00 mark of the 2nd half.
Brownell's Tigers have five ACC losses by five points or less in 2013.
While the veteran Hurricanes were clutch in the end, relying on a Rion Brown bucket-and-one and Kenny Kadji’s only 3 of the game, the Tigers once again found themselves on the losing end as KJ McDaniels missed 2-of-3 free throws down the stretch and Rod Hall couldn’t finish on a late drive with one second to go. Clemson 247 takes a look at key stats along with what went right and what went wrong in the Tigers close loss.
Five things that went Right
After another slow offensive start which at one point saw the Tigers shooting 6.7% from the field, Clemson was able to trigger a 13-4 run to answer Miami and take a 3 point lead at the midway point of the 1st half. From this point the teams would trade blow-for blow, with neither squad leading by more than 5 points throughout the game. The Tigers would use a 7-0 at the start of the 2nd half to build this 5 point lead, but credit the veteran Hurricanes for replying with a 6-0 run of themselves to re-take the lead.
For a team that has multiple deep range threats, Miami struggled often throughout the night in failing to convert open looks as they finished the game 3-for-19 shooting from behind the arc. Credit the ‘Canes for not shying away from pulling the trigger, and they were rewarded with two late makes including the eventual game winner from Senior Kenny Kadji. Clemson wasn’t much better shooting on the night and would finish 4-for-17 from 3-point land.
Freshman Jordan Roper once again starred on the night and seems to playing with more and more confidence as he finishes up his rookie year. Roper would tally 19 points, including an impressive end-to-end drive and layup at the end, and 4 steals as he continues to make strides on the defensive end of the court. From Brownell’s view, “Roper made big shots, especially some tough, guarded shots. He played with a lot of confidence on offense. He played at a very high level tonight and it was certainly very much needed. We hope he can continue that.”. Miami head coach Jim Larranaga also came away impressed, stating “This is just tough, hard-nosed competitors going at each other from start to finish, kind of like Roper did. Roper caught the ball, took a dribble, and banged in a jumper.”. Roper also continues to become more composed and vocal on the court as he looks like a viable candidate to become a future leader for the Tigers.
Many ACC games have been turned into free throw shooting contests due to extremely close officiating, but credit tonight’s ACC crew for allowing both teams to play a physical contest. This allowed both teams to bring a lot of intensity and physicality on the defensive end, and it also kept Clemson away from the dreaded free throw line.
With multiple big guys who can display a variety of post skills, I had some concern over how the Tigers would defend Miami down low…but Senior big man Devin Booker was ready for the task, and along with a few minutes of help from Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith Clemson was able to hold Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson both below their season averages. Only one Miami player was able to go over his season average…Senior Julian Gamble.
Five things that went Wrong
Clemson lost another close game, and as has been the theme for much of the season the Tigers free throw shooting would play a big role in the end. Finishing the night 5-of-13 from the charity stripe, with six of those misses coming in the final 7:30 of play would do the Tigers no favor. It’s clear that this team has some issues winning close games, and I don’t see this trend changing much until Brad Brownell can find some guys who will come through in the clutch and down these free throws.
KJ McDaniels showed that he still has some improvement to make on his offensive skill set before becoming a reliable go-to scorer for this team, as he finished with only 3 points on 1-for-11 shooting from the field. McDaniels worked hard on his outside shooting during the offseason, but defenders are now trying to force him to put the ball on the floor where he is clearly less comfortable and having issues finishing around the basket.
Disappointing night for Milton Jennings who really showed some nerves in finishing with 6 points on a 2-for-12 shooting night that included 0-for-7 from three. The Miami defense would leave Jennings with quite a few open looks, but after missing a few early shots you could see the doubt creep in as the Senior would pass up on some open three’s late in the game. To be successful Clemson needs Jennings to be a 3-point threat in addition to Roper so the lane can clear out for Devin Booker to go to work in the post. Jennings also had a tough night on defense as Jim Larranaga really tested his matchup vs. Seniors Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble throughout the night. Often times both Gamble and Kadji were able to use their size advantage to push Jennings around and finish around the basket.
For many teams, finding themselves down 4 points late on their 2nd consecutive ACC road trip would be a recipe for disaster…but Miami has the benefit of boasting six Seniors on the roster and it really shows in games that come down to the wire. While the younger Tigers looked nervous and unsure in trying to close out the third-ranked team in the Nation, Miami looked calm and cool as they were able to tally another ACC win and improve to 12-0 on the conference season.
After receiving some starts and a lot of action early this season, Sophomore transfer Damarcus Harrison has seen his playing time reduced as Freshman Jordan Roper and Adonis Filer begin to improve their skill set. Harrison has showed some flashes of ability, but his inconsistency in shooting the ball and playing aggressive defense until the end of the shot clock has forced Brownell to look elsewhere for some current answers on this team.
Five Key Stats
2-14 Combined shooting of Clemson’s two Seniors (Booker & Jennings) while the Tigers only scored 16 points in the 1st half. Booker’s game would improve some in the 2nd half (3-6 from the field), but his inability to finish at times around the basket combined with Jennings cold night from the field really hurt the chances of this team to score a big conference victory.
15.8% shooting percentage from 3-point range for Miami. One week after tallying a school record 15 3-pointers in a blowout win over North Carolina, the Hurricanes were dreadful from deep with Kenny Kadji & Shane Larkin going a combined 2-11 from behind the arc. After facing some hot shooting teams on the season (think the Purdue game in Littlejohn) the Tigers finally caught a break, but they couldn’t take full advantage of Miami’s off night.
13 offensive rebounds for Clemson. KJ McDaniels & Devin Booker showed a lot of aggressiveness on the boards tonight as they were able to produce a lot of 2nd chances on the offensive end in the early going.
2 & 3 points and rebounds in 17 minutes of play for Miami big-man Reggie Johnson. Credit Booker along with Freshman Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith for doing a great job defending Johnson in the post and keeping him well below his season average of 10 points and 8.7 rebounds.
0 & 1 points and rebounds in 14 minutes of play for Tiger Sophomore transfer Damarcus Harrison. After getting clearly beat on an inbounds play that put Miami up 18-16 before the half, Harrison spent all but three minutes of the 2nd half on the bench. As the season runs deeper into ACC play Brownell has started to rely more and more on 5 or 6 main guys in the rotation…with starters Jennings/McDaniels/Booker/Hall & Roper all playing more than 30 minutes in tonight’s game. This concentration leaves players like Harrison, Bernard Sullivan and Freshman Adonis Filer on the bench during key stretches of the game.
Tonight you could see a clear difference between how the Seniors physically looked during the game vs. the rest of the younger guys, as Booker & Jennings are starting to realize they are embarking on the end of their Clemson careers. While Roper looked calm and confident throughout the game, Booker and Jennings often looked very nervous and unsure of themselves in missing open looks and free throws. This contrast was also evident in the postgame interviews as Booker was clearly devastated by missed opportunity vs. Miami while Roper looked at this game as another learning opportunity in his young career. Meanwhile on the other side of the court, the Hurricane Seniors looked the part as they remained composed throughout and stepped up big with the game on the line as they have so often this season.
The Tigers have this week off before traveling to Maryland for a Saturday afternoon tip-off. With a conference record of 5-8, Clemson will look to re-gather their efforts and try to finish the ACC season on a positive note before moving into the tournament season