Despite trailing by double-digits in the first half and three at halftime, Clemson beat Temple by 14. Nnoko was fantastic, Roper was the spark off the bench, Rod Hall was clutch down the stretch, and K.J. McDaniels was... The Dunk Man?
11/21 vs. Temple
- Demarcus Harrison got the start at SG over Roper once again. Still, he had fewer rebounds, assists, and points than Roper. This reminds me a bit of Manu Ginobili coming off the bench for the Spurs a few years back. He was clearly better than the starter and played more minutes, but was used off the bench. We'll see if this trend continues.
- I didn't think Harrison looked very good tonight. He was a shade over-eager to shoot a few times he had the ball and consequently threw up some low percentage looks I'd prefer him to pass on. Conversely, Roper lit a fire under the team as soon as he hit the court. He came in shortly before the 15:00 mark and immediately attacked the basket and made a lefty lay-up. The very next play he connected on a three, and on the next possession he added an assist to Blossomgame for a dunk. Maybe that's why Brownell likes him off the bench.
- Temple only returned two starters from last season, but they had a lot of height in that starting lineup. This figured to be a test for our rebounding, a question mark to this point.
- Landry Nnoko played the best game of his career. He scored 10 points, eclipsing his previous career high (8) and added career high 15 rebounds (previous 5). He won't have to post those type of numbers every night for this team to succeed, but we really needed him on the glass tonight and he came through in a huge way. He scored the first four for the Tigers on easy lay-ins. Beyond the numbers, he looked good moving without the ball, setting screens, and being a part of the offense. The announcers mentioned him failing to box out on a few occasions, but I feel silly harping on that when he ended with 15 rebounds. His three blocks were also a career high. We were getting a little chaffed by his constant foul trouble this season, so it was great to see him come through with a big night. He had two fouls in 34 minutes compared to 11 fouls in 42 minutes across his first three games.
- K.J. didn't look great towards the start. He seemed to be forcing shots, most notably some off-balanced shots in the paint. After an emphatic dunk he seemed to come alive. He brought the team and arena to life around the 11:00 mark in the second half with an even more impressive dunk, followed by a block on the other end (Djambo added another block on the possession). It quelled a Temple run and was a momentum changer. He was the team's leading scorer with 20. He's now reached 20 points in 3/4 games and has been the team's leading scorer in each of those three games. He has taken his game to another level and is clearly the team's star and leader.
- Speaking of his dunks... What were the announcers talking about with the "Dunk Man" nickname? Did they just make that up. If people are actually calling him that, please stop.
- One of the guys I was most impressed with was Rod Hall. I was irked by his decision to throw up an off-balance shot with a foot on the three point line and about 30 second on the shot clock some time early in the first half, but after that he was magnificent. He was able to get by his defender and get to the rim all night. He was 5/6 from the line and 4/8 from the floor. Down the stretch, he had the ball in his hands as the shot clock wound down on a couple occasions and each time he was able to get to the basket and make a play. He had 13 points tonight. On the season, he has an 11-2 AST/TO ratio. As we said in the season preview, he may not have the best jump shot, but he is a reliable defender, ball-handler, and distributor. This season he has improved his ability to finish at the rim. If you were not keen on Hall at the start of the season, are you coming around yet?
- Fellow STS writer, Mark Gordon, was spot on in his game preview when he said "Don't get nervous if Clemson falls behind early, look for Coach Brad Brownell to push the tempo and get into the Temple bench." Clemson played a fast-paced game--something we didn't see last season--and took advantage of their backcourt depth to pull away in the second half. Mark pulled out some crystal ball stuff there, hopefully it doesn't go to his head.
- Overall, it was a very satisfying win. I'm most pleased with the play of Hall and Nnoko. Looking to tomorrow night's game, Davidson is only 1-3 after their win over UGA. There's no reason we shouldn't beat them and advance to the Charleston Classic Championship versus either UMass or New Mexico. Either of those teams would be a tremendous challenge, but a loss to a team of that caliber doesn't hurt you too bad. Clemson has been exceeding expectations and has moved up to 48th in KenPom. New Mexico is 26th and UMass is 47th.
We play Davidson tonight (Friday) at 9:30pm. It's on ESPNU rather than ESPN3. They're only 1-3 after their win over Georgia and it may be an easier matchup than Temple.