Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
As expected, Clemson cruised to a 80-57 victory over Florida A&M. As I stated in the preview, Kenpom has Florida A&M ranked 333 out of 347 teams. For that reason, it's very difficult to take much away from this victory. But just because it's difficult doesn't mean I won't try.
I'll start with the positives. I think the most positive sign was the play of Jordan Roper. He got the starting nod over Damarcus Harrison, as Brownell continues to tinker with his rotations. The scouting report on Roper out of high school was that he was a very dynamic scorer, but he was slight in size and didn't possess natural point guard attributes. Well, if he keeps throwing the ball in the basket like he was tonight it won't matter that he's a 6' SG. He was lights out from the field, going 4-5 from three and 6-8 overall for 16 points. For a team that is severely lacking in quality outside shooters, Roper is a welcome revelation. He has a very pure looking shooting stroke and a lightning quick release that allows him to get his shot off despite his small stature.
K.J. McDaniels continued with his highlight-reel-ways. He threw down two dunks that could surely be on SportCenters Top 10 plays, and probably would be if he played from Duke, UNC, Kentucky, or Kansas. The first was an alley-oop thrown by Rod Hall. Hall did a nice job of getting the ball to the middle of the floor on the break and threw it up for McDaniels. McDaniels leapt over a defender who tried to obstruct his path, threw it down on top of him, and drew the foul in the process. His second dunk was an NBA All-Star style dunk, where Rod Hall threw it off the backboard to a trailing McDaniels on a 2-on-0 fast break. This guy is one of the top athletes in all of college basketball and is really starting to come into his own as a player. Clemson fans are lucky as hell that they get the opportunity to see him play in Orange.
Point guard play, which was thought to be a weakness heading into the season, continued to be a strength. Rod Hall finished the game with a career high 10 assists in just 22 minutes of playing time. He's been making very good decisions with the ball and really knows and understands his role on this team. Adonis Filer also seems to know his role. When he steps foot on the floor he is in constant attack mode. That's a big asset to have on a team that struggles to find scoring at times. He scored 14 points in just 23 minutes by getting to the charity stripe 10 times (7 for 10). He can get a little out of control at times, and doesn't always finish off drives within the trees, but I think that's a fair tradeoff for the amount of times he does finish or draw a foul. He's still only 9 games into his collegiate career and he will continue to get better and more confident (if that's possible) as the games go by.
Brownell emptied his bench early and often in this one, allowing 11 guys to play at least 8 minutes. For that reason, the quality of play was a little worse than you'd expect at times. Clemson turned the ball over 17 times, with a majority of those turnovers coming from the 2nd unit. And this may be nitpicking, but I was a bit discouraged seeing another player light up Clemson from deep. Reggie Lewis, who came into the game shooting 31% from 3 and averaging 9 PPG, finished this game with 26 points on 6-8 3-point shooting. He made a few difficult shots, but the majority of the time he was left open without a hand in his face. He singlehandedly kept Florida A&M in the game in the first half. The Tigers did a much better job in the 2nd half of limiting his looks, and as a result Clemson quickly pulled away. But that's twice now that Clemson has let a relatively benign shooter light them up.
Clemson has three more non-conference games before facing FSU on January 5th. These three games should simply serve as glorified scrimmages. It's a good opportunity for Brownell to find the right rotations before the meat of the schedule and for the young guys to build their confidence. Next up is the Coastal Carolina on Wednesday (12/19), which should be a slight step up in competition.