Tip Drill: Clemson Dismal in the Dean Dome

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson traveled to the Dean Dome to play one of the most vulnerable Tar Heel squads in years, but hardly put up a fight in their 57th straight loss in Chapel Hill.

There's really nothing positive to say about this game. We were out-coached, out-hustled, and out-played. So, let me get the few positive tidbids from my trip to Chapel Hill out of the way before I analyze the game.

UNC fans were extremely welcoming and friendly. Not a sole talked trash or even gave a dirty look around town or in the game--a much different experience than what you'll find just down the road in Raleigh. Clemson fans were all over downtown Chapel Hill. There's nothing better than being reminded how great the Clemson community truly is. I ran into some old friends and acquaintances from my college years and even met one of our loyal readers/commenters who made the trip. I'm very thankful for that. Unfortunately the game was a real clunker, and I question whether or not I'll ever see Clemson win in Chapel Hill.

1/26 at North Carolina

Result: 61-80 Defeat
Leading Scorer: K.J. McDaniels (13)
Key Stat: Clemson shot .316 from two-point territory while UNC shot a .605 clip from inside the arc.

  • As soon the player introductions began my hope for a historic night began to fade. Brad Brownell elected to start Demarcus Harrison over Jordan Roper at the #2 guard and Josh Smith over Jaron Blossomgame at power forward. This is almost certainly due to UNC's height advantage (and a possible injury to Roper). I fully understand that dilemma, however giving excessive playing time to guys who can't contribute at this level purely for an extra few inches of height is not ideal.
    • UNC's taller guard, Leslie McDonald, is 6'5", which may have been a lot for Jordan Roper to handle. Nevertheless, Harrison wasn't especially impressive on defense and finished 0-5 from the field as his three year long shooting drought (dating back to BYU) continues. To his credit, he did exactly what I asked in my recent "Progress Report" article in that he attacked the basket and drew fouls. He was 5-6 from the line and actually posted a decent enough offensive rating of 93. Again, to Harrison's credit, he severely outplayed Jordan Roper who may be a bit banged up. Roper seemed hesitant all night and was not a scoring threat. He posted an offensive rating of 20! He had just one point and two turnovers. I don't like Harrison starting, but I'm uncertain that Filer should start alongside Rod Hall. (Note: If you're not familiar with offensive rating (Ortg), just think of it as the QB rating for offensive basketball. You can read the details here.)

    • In the post, McAdoo and Meeks are both 6'9", which made it tough for Blossomgame to battle in the paint. That said, Josh Smith has the lowest Ortg on the team (70.9) and posted an unbelievably low rating of 30 in this game (100 is about average). He had zero points and only one rebound in thirteen minutes. He had zero blocks and three personal fouls.

  • Blossomgame had four rebounds in 12 minutes. He should be starting the rest of the way unless Djitte or Djambo emerges. He was clearly bothered by their size. It was most evident on offense and it is true that he is playing out of position. Nevertheless he is our best option at the four and should absolutely get the nod over Josh Smith, even against a big FSU front line.

  • K.J. McDaniels carried us for a bit in the first half, but when the wheels finally came off, they came off for him too. He finished with six turnovers and a poor .333 FG%. He was also 0-4 from downtown. He contributed most on the boards where he had 9 of the teams 31 rebounds. Still, Brownell said he played harder than anyone else on the team and he just "needs help" from his teammates. He also discussed the notion that he may need to get in some faces and demand that help.

  • UNC is a very good offensive rebounding team and it showed in this one as their offense grabbed an outstanding .483 chunk of the rebounds. Think of that for just a second. They snagged just about half of their misses. They had one fewer offensive rebound than we had defensive rebound. Whenever Clemson came up with a stop (well half the time), they managed to out-hustle us to the ball and try again. Clemson had plenty of offensive rebounds as well, but that'll happen when you miss more shots (10 additional misses).

  • Clemson shot .316 from two-point territory.They're shooting .419 from two thus far in conference play, 14th best in the league.

  • Rod Hall was bothered by UNC's big post defenders. Hall was persistent driving to the paint (which I love), but he was unable to draw any fouls and had about three shots swiftly rejected. He was 0-5 for two, but made two three-pointers. The lack of a shooting threat like Devin Coleman or Patrick Rooks makes it tough for him to penetrate and kick while the lack of a scoring big man limits his ability to find someone in the paint.

  • Clemson switched to a 2-3 zone once things got out of control, but the Heels still managed to slip inside the cracks and knock down numerous 10-foot jumpers. It seems Pittsburgh and UNC found some holes in what was a salty Clemson defense. I am understanding that we're not an abundantly talented offensive group, but when the defense struggles I get worried. The pick and roll defense was especially horrendous. Too many times the man setting the pick rolls completely unimpeded to the basket and catches a short pass from the double-teamed guard to lay in a freebie bucket. This was no more obvious than a play at the 17:52 mark of the second half. A simple pick led the Clemson big to switch on to the guard, while nobody picked up his man. The pass went into the paint and Smith was forced to rotate over and commit the foul. Marcus Paige would bury a three moments later.

  • Even an untrained eye can see how much more movement is involved in the Tar Heel's offense. They're constantly in motion, setting off the ball screens and making cuts. Our offense seems to consist of an ineffective high-ball screen followed by a lot of meaningless passes that get us no closer to scoring. This is on the coaching staff and needs to be adjusted. Post entry passes are too seldom and are often come too far from the basket when they come. Brownell will need to tweak the offense for the coming games.

  • Finally, I think it's important not to get too high or too low. I'm extremely frustrated with our play tonight. This is probably the most upsetting game we've put together this season, however let's keep things in perspective. This was absolutely not a game we projected to win back at the start of the season or even just yesterday. We're now 4-3 in conference play. KenPom still projects us to finish 10-8 in ACC play, which I think is lofty, but it's not completely unreasonable for this team to finish 8-10 and surpass my original 6-12 prediction.

  • Up next, we play at Tallahassee on Saturday at 3pm. KenPom only gives us a 21% chance to win that game. I would be very happily shocked if we pulled it off. Their height is a matchup problem for us and I don't see that being a win. After that we will be favored against Georgia Tech in a must win game in Littlejohn. Please continue checking back for more basketball and football recruiting coverage and like us on Facebook (below) if you haven't already.

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