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Clemson vs NC State: Take five

The Tigers suffered another heartbreaker on Sunday afternoon as Scott Wood hit the go ahead three with 1 second on the clock in NC State’s 58-57 win. Clemson led for much of the game and even held a 57-53 lead after a Rod Hall layup at the 19-second mark. A missed one-and-one free throw by Milton Jennings gave the Wolfpack life, and they took advantage as Wood knocked down the wide open three from the corner. Clemson 247 Sports takes a look at five observations and key stats from today’s game.

A tough loss for Brad Brownell today after leading the whole game.

Five Observations:

1- After a disastrous road trip that included falling behind by 20 points at Boston College and a blowout in Charlottesville, Brad Brownell had this team fired up and ready to play from the beginning. This team has suffered from slow starts for much of the season, but a revised starting lineup with the inclusion of Freshman Jordan Roper and Adonis Filer seemed to give Clemson the lift it needed out of the gate. Brownell had not been happy with the recent play of Sophomores Rod Hall and Demarcus Harrison, and the younger line-up wouldn’t disappoint with a 24-12 lead at the 6:12 mark of the 1st half.

2- Keeping with the Freshman theme, Roper had a career high with 17 points in the game even without scoring during the last 15 minutes of the 2nd half. Roper looked very comfortable handling and shooting the ball against a tall and athletic Wolfpack defense while also showing improvement on the defensive end with three steals on the day. Inexperience would show towards the end with a passed up opportunity on a wide-open 3-pointer that would have given the Tigers a 5 point lead with under a minute to play.

3- The talent differential between these two teams would really began to show in the 2nd half as NC State started chipping away at the early Clemson lead. Juniors Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie were both aggressive in attacking the basket and looking to score at every opportunity. Senior Richard Howell would also step it up late and carry the load with 14 2nd half points. After struggling from shooting deep in the early going the Wolfpack made a clear change to the game plan to begin attacking the basket, and as a result State would take the lead with 9:21 remaining to play.

4- Have to credit the Tigers for showing plenty of fight after falling behind. The trio of Devin Booker, KJ McDaniels and Rod Hall stepped up and were the only Clemson players to score in the last 15 minutes of the game. Every time NC State threw a punch during the stretch run the Tigers would find a way to answer back. A huge Booker rebound and put-back after a Milton Jennings missed three would give Clemson a four point lead with two minutes to play, but ultimately the Tigers would not be able to hang on in the end.

5- Now on to the last play…it wasn’t exactly a secret what was being drawn up and Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried admitted the play to Wood was designed, stating “running a play for Scott Wood to make a three is like running a play for somebody to try to get a lay-up sometimes”. Brownell also stresses the importance during the timeout of not losing Wood’s number on the defensive play.

After knocking down a couple of early shots in the game Wood managed to lay low as he only finished with 3-for-9 from long range on the day, but after slipping unnoticed into the corner on the final play he was able to deliver the clutch shot at the end. Add this one to the list of gut-wrenching losses on the season for Clemson (along with both FSU games, at NC State and at Boston College) and Brownell will once again have to find a way to keep this team fighting, quoting “to lead for most of the game and then obviously walk away in the last second a loser. It’s a tough day.”

Five key stats:

37.5% three point shooting on the day for NC State, pretty much matching the end result for the Tigers (35.3% on the day). For the better part of the game Clemson did a solid job on defense behind the arc, with KJ McDaniels handling Scott Wood for most of the afternoon, but youth and inexperience would eventually be exposed as Wood would hit the wide open game winner at the end.

0 points for Freshman T.J. Warren, who lit the Tigers up in Raleigh for 21 earlier this season. Credit Brownell and the Clemson coaching staff for making some adjustments on the defensive end for the rematch.

16,11,4 points, rebounds and steals for Wolfpack Senior Richard Howell, most of which would come in the 2nd half of the game. The Senior big man really stepped up to the plate coming down the stretch as he kept NC State in the game with his physical play in the post.

3- Points on the day for Senior Milton Jennings, who finished 1-6 from the field (including two missed open 3’s at the end) and 0-1 from the free throw line with the key miss on a 1-and-1 at the 12 second mark that could have sealed the deal for the Tigers.

Zero difference in conference records between these two teams if Clemson had found a way to finish at the end. Looking at the talent level on these two teams it’s hard to tell if this speaks more to the Wolfpack underachieving (after being predicted as the pre-season ACC champion) on the season or Clemson overachieving given the current talent level and inexperience in the program.

Going forward

Brad Brownell once again managed to get this group fighting hard and playing with intensity following some lackluster showings on the road, but after losing another heartbreaker one has to wonder if he can rally the troops again before traveling to Georgia Tech on Thursday night.

A loss on the road in Atlanta would drop the Tigers to 4-8 in the ACC with Miami coming to Littlejohn a week from today. Needless to say Clemson faces a must-win game in four days if they want to remain relevant in the ACC race.

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