Clemson once again fell behind early, as they trailed the Wildcats 7-2 five and a half minutes into the game. This continues a disturbing trend for us. We trailed the College of Charleston 20-8, spotted Furman nine points before scoring at all, and fell behind early to Iowa 6-2. In all of these games, we have simply looked lethargic for much of the first few minutes, almost like we don't even want to be out on the court.
We actually scored on our first possession, as Andre Young made a nice dish to Tanner Smith as he sliced through the heart of the Zona D and got an easy layup. But this was the last time we scored for quite some time, as our guys thought that it would be a good idea to miss nine consecutive shots. If it wasn't for Arizona's (almost) equally poor shooting, we could have easily been down double digits only five minutes into the game. But Arizona struggled offensively as well, and held just a five point lead five and a half minutes into the game.
Brownell tweaked the starting lineup for today's game, starting Bryan Narcisse instead of Rod Hall or T.J. Sapp. I don't put much of the blame on B-Nice for the way the Tigers started the game off today (the blame goes to the other four starters, all of whom took bad shots in the opening five minutes), but it was interesting to see him inserted into the starting lineup.
After watching his Tigers miss nine consecutive shots, Brownell had seen enough. He made one of those mass substitutions that Roy Williams always makes when he's really pissed off. The ones where he benches all five guys (Tanner, Andre, B-Nice, Devin Booker, and Milton Jennings) on the court in order to send a message. We did look better with the five new guys (Hall, Catalin Baciu, Bernard Sullivan, K.J McDaniels, and Sapp), as Sullivan and Bobo both scored quickly, and Sapp picked up a couple of quick steals. But this less experienced group didn't stay in for long, and Brownell quickly reinserted the starters, with one small change. He kept B-Nice on the bench, and left McDaniels out on the court.
After being put back on the court, the starters continued to struggle, especially on offense. The Tigers only had ten points at the halfway mark of the first half, and they went into the locker room at halftime having only scored 16 points (Wildcats led at the break, 29-16). After watching Arizona's lead increase even further following some stellar plays by Wildcats freshman Nick Johnson, Devin Booker decided that he finally wanted to respond. When he got the ball in the paint, he actually decided to attack the basket, and was rewarded with a couple of free throws (This, by the way, was the first trip to the line for the Tigers all game long. More on that later.). After this play, I thought that maybe, just maybe, Devin and some of the other guys would start attacking the basket. Well, I was wrong. After this play, we went right back to chucking 3s and not really doing a damned thing on offense. But Zona continued to struggle offensively too, and we continued to hang around. We somehow cut the Zona lead to just seven with about four minutes remaining.
Down seven with about four minutes remaining, and in an obvious must score situation, Devin had the ball down low. And what did he do next? Did he move towards the basket in an attempt to score or draw a foul? NO HE DID NOT. He settled for a fade away, and missed badly. And any hopes we had at a comeback were pretty much killed with that decision.
I just don't understand why we don't attack the basket. Whenever Milton and Devin get the ball in the paint, they settle for a jump shot or a fade away. Whenever Jerai Grant settled for a mid-range jumper last year, that was completely ok, because he actually made the vast majority of those shots. Devin and Milton, however, just throw up bricks. That's all the seem to do. It's so aggravating to see guys shooting fade-aways and mid-range jumpers and missing.
A telling stat: we attempted five free throws in the game today. We played forty minutes of basketball and only went to the line three times. We didn't even go to the line once in the first half. Not once.
On a lot of our possessions, instead of trying to find a good look, we just settled for the 3-point shot. I actually lost track off the amount of times that we settled for a 3 with more than 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Simply put, it happened a lot. Also, the sheer number of 3s we shot was ridiculous: 19. We shot 19 3s in this game, missing 14 of our first 15 attempts, including an 0-9 performance in the first half.
I don't know if I can really compliment any of the older players on their play today. Devin settled for too many fade aways, and Milton settled for too many mid-range jumpers. Milton also got into some foul trouble in the second half.
Andre may have been the game's leading scorer (17 points), but his shot selection was downright awful at times. Andre can knock down his shots when his teammates draw away the defender and get it to him on the wing. That's his shot. That's the kind of shot that he can make. He's usually not the type to just pull up from 25 feet out, but that's what he did today on multiple occasions. Whenever he shoots the ball from 25 feet out with 25 seconds left on the shot clock, you might as well just give him a turnover in the stat column, because that's basically what's happening.
Speaking of turnovers, Tanner had three of them today. Two of these were very poor passes, the other one was an example of him just losing his handle on the ball. I love to watch Tanner play, as he plays with the kind of passion that is sorely lacking in some of his teammates. But he makes so many bad decisions passing the ball, and it can sometimes be really painful to watch.
I can't say many good things about the older guys, but at least we saw some promise out of some of the freshmen today. McDaniels and Sullivan saw extensive minutes in the first half today, something I've been hoping to see all season long. And little used Devin Coleman saw some time on the court as well.
McDaniels had one of the best games of his young career today. He played for 18 minutes, and recorded seven points and a block. He also was called for defensive goal tending twice. If he can just work on the timing of his jumps, he could emerge as the team's best shot blocker. Sullivan played well for the most part, although he did commit a foul with just four seconds on the shot clock, a cardinal sin for any defender.
So the Tigers fall to .500 on the year going into exam week. Our next games are against Winthrop and Alabama State, so hopefully we can actually get a comfortable lead at home against a mid-major for once so that we can see some more minutes from McDaniels, Sapp, Hall, and Sullivan. Their progression will decide just how good (or how bad) of a team we will be this year.