USA TODAY Sports
Clemson hasn't won in Cameron Indoor since 1995. The chances that that trend would end this year were slim to none. Even with expectations that low, Clemson was able to disappoint. This is the 5th time this season that Clemson has put itself in a huge hole early in the game: Purdue, Arizona, Coastal Carolina, FSU, Duke.
The first half was one of the ugliest in Clemson history. 10 points on 12% shooting. Duke was forcing Clemson into some tough shots, but our guys are on scholarship just like the Dukies. It's time they start playing like it. I wasn't all Duke's defense. Clemson was also missing open looks and chippies around the basket.
I didn't see any sort of motion offense, which is supposed to be a Brad Brownell staple. Our offensive sets were simply high ball screens with the hopes that our guards would make a play. Without playmaking guards, this strategy backfired.
I wish there were one or two things that I could put my finger on that this team needs to do to turn around this season. But there are so many issues: lack of talent, lack of competitive spirit, lack of leadership, laziness, ball security, lack of shooters. There are so many issues to point to and not many of them can be corrected in the next 3 days before the team heads to UVA. Our guys may have games where they shoot better (it'd be difficult to shoot worse), but they aren't going to all of the sudden become knock down shooters. Jennings and Booker aren't the leaders that the young guys need. I generally like for the PG to step up and become the leader since they are the QB of the team, but that doesn't seem to be in Rod Hall's personality and Adonis Filer is just a freshman. The laziness that is exhibited on the defensive glass, taking charges, and getting after loose balls is correctable, but needs to be enforced by benchings for those players that aren't getting after it. Lastly, I think some guys on this team lack the competitiveness that is needed to win at this level. There's no fire from these guys. They get punched in the mouth game after game and don't retaliate with a counter punch. For everything that Tanner Smith lacked in talent, he at least busted his tail each game and showed a competitiveness that these guys are lacking.
All that being said, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the effort that Devin Booker displayed tonight in a blowout loss. While the rest of the team was simply going through the motions, Booker busted his tail as hard as I've seen him all season. He battled for every rebound, fought inside for positioning, and did a hell of a job on POY candidate Mason Plumlee (3-9 for 8 points). Booker's final stat line was 12 points (5-13) and 15 rebounds. It's not just the number of rebounds, but it's how hard he worked for each and every one of them. If the rest of the guys had given this type of effort the game wouldn't have been over after the first 20 minutes.
So where do we go from here?
After falling behind big early, Brownell turned to a full court press in the 2nd half that seemed to energize the team for a few minutes. It's not the first time he's done this, and in each game he has thrown the press out there it has seemed to spark the team. It may behoove the coach to employ this press earlier in the game before the game is completely out of hand.
Brownell went to a smaller lineup during stretches in the 2nd half when running the full court press. McDaniels was playing the 4, with Hall, Filer, Harrison/Roper, and Booker out there with him. This lineup provides the best offensive punch. And while it is susceptible defensively because of the size disadvantage, that disadvantage can be masked while running a zone press. And it's not like Jennings was providing much defensive resistance anyway. I'm hoping to see more of this going forward.
We'll see if the Tigers can bounce back at home on Saturday against a UVA squad that is undefeated against all teams outside of the CAA. These are two of the slowest paced teams in all of college basketball, so first to 40 may be declared the winner.