Clemson picked up their first ACC win of the season and extended their win streak to 7 games by knocking off Miami Saturday night 79-72. The Tigers really helped themselves out by jumping out on Miami at the start of both halves. In the first half, it was a 9-2 run to start, and in the second half it was a 12-0 run. Both of those runs were led by Demontez Stitt and his hot outside shooting. That’s a 17 point advantage that Clemson was able to give themselves by coming out with more energy and a better sense of urgency in each half. Miami was able to keep the game close, though, with some timely 3-point shooting. And very poor officiating. More on that later.
Clemson’s big 3 of Jerai Grant, Demontez Stitt, and Andre Young were big in this game. Each one of these guys stepped up huge when Clemson needed them to do so. Grant had two huge 3 point plays to halt Miami runs. He finished the game with another double-double, 18 points and 11 rebounds. Demontez Stitt went 4-7 from behind the arc, hitting a huge 3-pointer with around 7 minutes left when Miami had cut the Clemson lead to 59-58. Young stepped up and knocked down two gigantic jumpers late in the game. The first one was a designed play to get Young free coming off a screen, and Young hit the 3 with just over 3 minutes left to give Clemson a 6 point lead. Then, after Durand Scott hit a floater to cut the lead to 3 points, Young sunk a desperation heave over two Miami defenders with the shot clock winding down. It was originally called a 3-pointer, then changed to a 2-pointer. But it didn’t matter, as it gave a the Tigers a two possession lead with under a minute to go.
Grant, Stitt, and Young finished with 18, 17, and 11 respectively. What is going to make Clemson even tougher to beat is if those three guys can get help from someone else. Well, in this game they did. Milton Jennings, while still sometimes frustrating to watch, came up very big in the second half. He scored 9 of his 12 points in the second half, showing confidence in hitting a big 3-pointer, finishing strong around the basket, and going 4-4 from the line. I can see his confidence level rising. He will still throw up a couple of ugly shots that make you shake your head, but unlike last year, he doesn’t look hesitant to keep attacking. That confidence really paid off in the second half.
Clemson’s offense looked the best I’ve seen it all year. Clemson was able to get out and run when the opportunities presented themselves. But, when forced to run half court sets, they generally did a good job of getting quality shots. Miami mixed in some 3-2 and 2-3 zones with their man-to-man defense. Clemson was not phased at all. They flashed a big man to the high post where they were able to work a high-low game and take advantage of the weak spots in the zones. This was a marked improvement from the Michigan game earlier in the year. In that game, I was baffled by how confused Clemson looked against the zone. Michigan coach John Beilein is a zone guy, and the fact that Clemson looked lost against their zone scared me. Brownell did a good job of coaching up his guys and getting them ready for a variety of defensive looks.
With all those positive remarks out of the way, there were still a few things that irked me about this game.
The first is Devin Booker. I understand that Booker has a pretty good outside jumpshot for a big man. But if I’m the coach, I tell him to stop constantly lurking around the perimeter and get his butt inside. At 6’8 and 250 lbs, it is not good use of a resource to have Booker 20 feet from the basket. By staying out on the perimeter he doesn’t give himself the opportunity for offensive rebounds like Grant does. He also misses out on easy drive and dish baskets. Booker comes across soft with his unwillingness to bang down low with other bigs. I’d like to see him play physical inside and make his presence felt their. Then he can use his 3-point range as a complimentary weapon to his arsenal instead of his only weapon.
My other gripe with this game was the terrible officiating. I’m not big into ripping officials, but there were some blatantly bad calls in this game against the home team. Andre Young had a layup waived off due to a bad offensive goal-tending call when Milton Jennings jumped up and touched the rim with the ball ABOVE the cylinder, but not ON the cylinder. That took 2 points away from the Tigers. Next was a horrendous blocking call on Tanner Smith when he had his feet planted on the ground and was bulled over by Reggie Johnson. This possession ended up resulting in a 3-pointer for Miami. The third was a great play by Young, where he stole the ball while going out of bounds and threw the ball the length of the floor to a wide open Cory Stanton who would’ve had an easy layup. Instead, the official ruled Young had stepped out of bounds when it looked like he was definitely in bounds. Brownell had a great view of the play and was not happy with the call. An easy 2 points was taken away from the Tigers. The fourth call that stood out to me was a play where Garrius Adams hooked Tanner Smith, but Smith was somehow called for the foul. The following out of bounds play resulted in another 3-pointer for the Hurricanes. All in all, these four terrible calls ended up costing the Tigers 10 points.
Whew. It felt good to get that off my chest.
Kenpom's predicted conference wins for Clemson before the Miami game. Encouraging to say the least.