Clemson struggled on both sides of the ball tonight against the Wolfpack, except for commendable efforts from Devin Booker and Rod Hall, and despite being able to tie the game up twice with under 4 minutes, there at the end horrible defense and dumb fouling decisions allowed NC State to pull out the win.
Tonight was brutal. A 10-0 run to start the game doesn't breed much confidence, especially when the opposition goes 3 for 3 from the arc in the first 5 minutes. To be fair, it took a lot for this team to fight back and tie the game with 3 minutes left. But in the end, the Tigers couldn't take care of the ball or foul the right players, and lost 66-62.
So what did we learn? I think one major positive is that Devin Booker may be turning a huge corner. We've asked for consistency and leadership from somebody, anybody, and Booker has led the team in all five games of conference play so far. He may not lead vocally, but he's let his play speak volumes. Unfortunately, it seems that for every good thing Booker is doing for this team, the other senior in this group either can't catch a break or just doesn't understand what it takes to compete and succeed (all the evidence pointing to the latter).
Jennings may have hit two clutch 3-pointers toward the end, but his awful defensive play in the possessions surrounding those scores completely negated those shots. Jennings is one of only three big men on this team who has had enough "experience" on the court to be getting significant playing time (Booker and McDaniels being the other two). In the last game, Jennings had a phenomenal outing from the perimeter, but that was a fluke and has not been the norm. Jennings should not, should not, should not be taking the majority of his shots from 3 (8 of 11 tonight?!). If he wants people to get off his back for taking threes, then he either needs to start shooting 50% or better in every game, or he at least needs to have as many attempted deuces. And Jennings cannot play defense when the pressure is on. In close games, he has occasionally stepped up and made huge shots, but he has consistently made dumb plays on defense. Sorry for yet another Jennings rant, but these are reasonable expectations that he should be held to.
Rod Hall had a great game and McDaniels was relatively silent (not really good, but not really bad), but what still doesn't make sense is why BB thinks that Harrison is a better choice to start, or even play 27 minutes, over Filer, Roper or even splitting the minutes between him, Sullivan and Nnoko. No doubt Brownell has his reasons, so it's possible that Harrison truly is the better defender of the players vying for the 5th spot. But in all honesty, great defense and non-existent offense is not really better than decent defense and decent offense. Harrison has the potential to be a starter, but whatever the reason, he's going to need more time than Filer, and even Roper has shown more immediate production. Tonight, only 3 of the starters earned their keep, so we can only expect that there will be two spots up for grabs this week.
A few more side notes: Clemson only had 7 free throw opportunities, which is shocking considering the numbers from the past few games. Also, it seems like we all knew this and it doesn't need to be said, but Brownell should have told his guys that fouling Scott Wood is unacceptable. In each of the past three seasons, Wood has shot above 90% from the foul line. He is not someone you want to foul.
The Tigers have a nice long break before heading down south for a rematch with FSU. FSU struggled to break 30 against UVA yesterday and lost by 20, the same team that Clemson beat 59-44 (at home) for their first conference win, but Clemson still lost to FSU at home 71-66. So it's far from a done deal, but Clemson at least has a chance of leaving Tallahassee with a win.