Five Things that went Right
Booker did a great job staying out of foul trouble against Arizona.
Devin Booker stayed out of foul trouble
One of the keys to a win was keeping the big man out of foul trouble (as mentioned in my game preview) and Clemson was able to play Booker for 37 minutes. Without Booker in the game the Tigers lose their top rebounder and wouldn’t have had an answer for Center Kaleb Tarczewski from Arizona.
The opening and closing of the game may have been ugly, but in between Brad Brownell’s club was able to bring the defensive intensity needed to win this game in limiting Arizona to 66 points and 35.5% shooting from the field.
This Clemson group is not going to score 80-90 points a game while running up and down the court, and the Tigers best chance for a win will come from solid defense and holding opponents to less than 70 points a night. Clemson successfully kept the game pace from getting to fast but failed to generate enough offense to tally the win.
Adonis Filer continues to Impress
Filer’s improvement will make up for the loss of TJ Sapp, and as he continues to develop I could see him becoming the new “go to” guy for Clemson in late game situations. The Freshman guard plays with an attitude that Clemson hasn’t seen since Trevor Booker’s first year, and in my opinion the Tigers could use a few more guys with a chip on their shoulder when they compete against the likes of UNC, Duke & NC State in conference play.
During a Clemson run in the first half Filer showed some displeasure to being subbed out of the game, but it’s refreshing to see a guy who plays with emotion and hopefully he can carry this team to some future success.
Devin Booker & KJ McDaniels combined for 9 blocks last night, and Landry Nnoko has also shown the ability to force opponents to adjust their shot. Clemson will need to continue this trend of great post defense if they want to make a tournament run this year.
Five Things that went Wrong
Poor Shot Selection
Clemson looked like a team full of Freshman & Sophomores in the early going as players were trying to make too much happen and taking poor shots from bad angles. Nobody on this team is going to shoot lights out every night, and Brownell’s offense improved with Adonis Filer & Rod Hall dribbling to the hoop and breaking down the Wildcats defense.
Missed Free Throws
The Tigers had a chance to win with a tie game @ the 7:22 mark, but Arizona’s composure & leadership took over with the game on the line. Missed free throws in the bonus really put a damper on Clemson’s ability to counter the closing Arizona run.
Clemson’s guards didn’t do a terrible job of handling the ball, but they failed to force enough turnovers from an Arizona team that has a habit of getting sloppy at times. More turnovers could have resulted into some easy transition points.
With the game on the line and a chance to knock off a Top 10 team in Littlejohn, nobody stepped up and carried this team to the win. In the past Brownell had guys like Demontez Stitt, Andre Young & Tanner Smith to act as a floor general, but nobody on this team could counter the Senior leadership from Arizona’s Mark Lyons. Clemson’s youth was exposed.
Avoiding the Shooting Slump
Since Brownell has arrived at Clemson, his teams have a tendency to go for long periods without making a shot. Unfortunately this slump arrived at the most inopportune time as the Tigers had a chance at the end for a win. Hopefully some more shooting help is on the way (future recruits & Jaron Blosssomgame) to help cure this issue.
Five Key Stats…
4- Highest number of Clemson rebounds for a player not named Devin Booker. Arizona had five players with more than five boards. Clemson did pick up the rebounding intensity after a slow start, but questions remain on who will step up after Booker graduates.
52.9%- Free throw shooting percentage for Clemson (9-17). With a tie game and 7:22 remaining the Tigers were well positioned for the upset, but missed opening 1-and-1 free throws by Adonis Filer & Devin Booker killed any chance at slowing down the Arizona run to close out the game. Clemson fans continue to have reasons to dread the free throw bonus.
2-16- Final shooting tally for Arizona forward Soloman Hill. Clemson’s length and athleticism with KJ McDaniels and Landry Nnoko gave him fits all night. Defensively the Tigers played well enough to win this game.
71.4%- Shooting percentage for Milton Jennings. Brad Brownell has to find more ways to get Jennings more open looks as he is the best pure shooter currently on this team. Jennings did get into some trouble with 3 fouls early in the 2nd half, but 7 total shots are not nearly enough for a guy who was feeling it last night.
9= Missed shots by KJ McDaniels last night. Early in the game the younger Forward found himself in some tough situations, and instead of passing the ball out to continue the offense he forced up some bad shots. Poor shot selection is a common issue with younger players looking to do too much, and it will be interesting to see how Brownell can improve this facet of McDaniels game moving forward.
The Tigers played a hard game, but this team is not talented enough to continue coming out flat in the early going and beat good teams. Yes, you could claim this one as a “moral victory” but a huge opportunity to build a tournament resume was missed on Saturday night. A win against Arizona could have been the difference between the NCAA or NIT come Selection Sunday.
Brownell’s guys continue to compete well, but a few more pieces & some experience are needed before the Tigers can play “big boy basketball” (which surprisingly exists outside of the SEC). Hopefully Clemson will continue to schedule major home nonconference games like this the future as they provide a great opportunity for a marquee win and can get Littlejohn filled in the early going.