Miami Steals One Late, 45-43

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

That was it. That was our chance for a signature victory. It was ours for the taking and we didn't take it. Clemson should've won, but yet somehow let another game slip through their fingertips. 5 out of our 8 ACC losses have come by 5 points or less. I have to give a ton of credit to Jordan Roper for showing up and playing a fantastic ball game. He dropped in 19 on 8-11 shooting, scoring 44% of Clemson's points and doing everything in his power to help Clemson pull out the victory. He just didn't get any help.

The close losses keep piling up and they don't get any easier to accept. It's really quite miraculous that Clemson was even in this game until the end with the poor performances turned in by K.J. McDaniels, Milton Jennings, and Devin Booker. McDaniels was 1-11, Jennings 2-12, and Booker 4-13. That's a combined 7-36 from Clemson's starting front court. Add to the fact that McDaniels and Booker were 4-11 from the foul line, including two misses on the front end of 1-and-1's, and it sounds crazy to sit here and say that Clemson should've won that basketball game. But there we were in the final minutes controlling the game and clinging to a two possession lead. And then it fell apart. Lets break it down.

  • With 4:23 left and the score tied at 38, Booker went to the line for a 1-and-1 and clanged the free throw, costing Clemson an opportunity for what should be an easy 2 points.
  • With 1:12 left and Clemson up 42-38, McDaniels was inexplicably fouled with 4 seconds left on the shot clock. He went to the line for a 1-and-1 and clanged the first one. Again, a missed opportunity for 2 points.
  • On the ensuing possession Rion Brown drove the basket, caught McDaniels with an elbow to the chin, made the shot and got McDaniels whistled for fouling with his face. Impressive. Brown made the free throw and cut the lead to 42-41.
  • Clemson takes possession with 1:01 left. Miami is full court pressing down 1. The inbound comes to Jennings around mid-court and he attempts to lead a 2-on-1 break with K.J. McDaniels. It was a bad decision. He can't handle the ball and is notorious for making poor decisions. Luckily this one got bailed out by a great catch by McDaniels and a bad foul call by the officials. McDaniels went to the line and only made 1 of 2. 43-41 Clemson.
  • With 0:56 left, Miami runs a high pick and roll with Shane Larkin and Kenny Kadji, a known 3-point shooting threat. Jennings hedges to cut off Larkin, but when the play breaks down Jennings gets caught free lancing and never gets back to his man. Jay Williams incorrectly stated that Jennings was helping on Durand Scott's drive. Jennings was only there to stop the drive because he was wondering around in the paint rather than guarding his man. I've rewatched that play 10 times. Jennings had the opportunity and plenty of time to get back to his man. He got caught ball watching. Kadji sunk the 3 to put Miami up 44-43 with 39 seconds left.
  • Clemson ran the clock down, and with 13 seconds left Hall attacked the basket and was whistled for a charge. It was a terrible call. It was easy to see initially, and even easier to see with replays, that McKinney-Jones was still sliding to his spot when Hall left his feet. It should've been 2 shots for Hall, but instead Miami was awarded the ball underneath.
  • Miami inbounded the ball to the corner and Clemson got a good trap. I have no issue with Clemson letting it play for a minute because they had the ball right where they wanted it. The pass out of the corner traveled across court, just as you'd want from a defensive perspective, but Clemson's guys were to slow to react to the pick the pass off. Clemson let the ball get into the hands of Miami's best free throw shooter, Trey McKinney-Jones. Fortunately, he was only able to make 1 of 2 at the line.
  • WIth 8 seconds to play, Booker rebounded the miss and handed off to Hall. Hall took too much time coming up the court in my opinion. You want to give yourself enough time for a pass or two, or to have an outlet if the play breaks down. But Hall used his strength to drive hard to the right and because McDaniels was posting up his man, he was able to seal him off and create an open lane for Hall. He missed what should've been a relatively routine layup and then McDaniels missed a tip in at the buzzer that should've been just as easy.
There isn't one instance in that sequence that I can point to and say that Brownell should've done something different. At some point players need to step up and make plays. 1-8 from the foul line during that stretch (including missed opportunities for the back end of 1-and-1's) is unacceptable. We could've iced the game. Leaving your man and wandering around in the paint while only up by 2 points is unacceptable. Missing two chances within 3 feet of the basket in the final seconds is unacceptable.

One final note: While I gave credit earlier to Roper, deservedly so, I feel like I should also acknowledge the fact that Hall played a hell of a game, sans that final layup. He had the tall task of guarding Miami's best player, Shane Larkin, the entire game. Larkin is one of the best point guards in the country and has been torching everyone lately. He's the engine that makes Miami's offense go, and Hall completely neutralized him. Larkin finished with 7 points on 2-8 shooting, but 3 of those points came on a 3-pointer in transition when Hall did his job by stopping the ball. He also only had 3 assists to go along with 3 turnovers. Roper completely carried us offensively and Hall kept us in it defensively. The rest of the team never showed up to the gym.
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