Let me first say that Florida State is a very good basketball team and I didn't expect to go into their house and come out victorious. Having said that, I came away from that game frustrated because we had an opportunity to win. That was the worst defensive performance I've seen from FSU this year, but we couldn't capitalize because of our porous perimeter defense.
FSU finished the game 11-19 from 3-point land and at one point were 8-11 from deep. Credit to FSU for knocking down the shots, but Clemson's defenders were giving them wide open looks. When playing defense you must always see your man and the ball. It's the first team defense fundamental that is taught. Too many times our defenders got caught watching the ball and lost track of their man. Other times we would collapse our defense to help on a benign penetrator (Jeff Petersen) and leave Michael Snaer or Ian Miller wide open. Our defenders need to be smarter and recognize who they are guarding and who is penetrating. Stay at home and make Petersen make a play.
Despite FSU's hot shooting, Clemson was able to trim a 16 point halftime deficit to single digits with just under 13 minutes to go. The Tigers were able to make a valiant run at 'em in the last 2 minutes, almost stealing a victory. But it was lost opportunities at other points in the 2nd half that allowed FSU to keep Clemson at arms length. And these key plays are what has me left feeling like we let an opportunity get away.
- Poor shot selection - Booker and Jennings forced tough jump shots out of the rhythm of the offense on key possessions
- Unforced turnovers - There were several possessions when our guys simply weren't on the same page and threw the ball away. Devin Coleman's pass to the Tigers' bench and Andre Young and Tanner Smith's backcourt violation coming out of a timeout are just a couple that come to mind.
- Lane violations - We had two separate line violations. The first one didn't end up costing us, but the 2nd did. Bernard James missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but a lane violation gave him another opportunity. He converted by knocking down both shots.
- Fighting teammates for rebounds - On the possession following James' free throws, FSU missed a 3-point attempt. Two Clemson players were in position to secure the rebound, but they ended up fighting each other for the ball and knocked it out of bounds. On the ensuing inbounds play Snaer knocked down a 3.
If you're looking for the bright spot in this loss it's obviously the play of the freshmen. KJ McDaniels had a stellar performance. He had a career high in both points and rebounds. He finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds (7 offensive!), 4 steals, 2 blocks, and several ferocious jams. The guy has star written all over him. Those that were concerned about his defense shouldn't be after watching this game. He has lock down defender potential with his athleticism and wingspan. Not to mention that he is already a great help-side shot blocker.
Now that I'm done gushing over McDaniels, I need to give props to Devin Coleman. If you look at the box score his numbers don't jump out at you (9 points, 4-11 FG). But if you watched the game you noticed his contributions. I've been skeptical about him because of his jumpshot, but if you look past that part of his game, you start to realize he does a lot of other good things. He is good at getting to the rim, he shoots a nice mid range jumper, and he has better vision than I've given him credit for in the past.
Losing Andre and Tanner after this year is gonna be tough to replace, but the freshmen have given us something to be optimistic and excited about next year. This year's team played a lot of young guys and started the year slowly as a result. But we've been playing our best basketball the last 12 games of the year. I'm not sure whether we'll get into the NIT or not, but a win or two in the ACC tournament can't hurt our chances.