When Clemson and Florida State get together, something happens. Not just in basketball, in any sport. There is no love lost between these two schools and it shows on every moment of every game that these two schools play against each other. That being said, in most sports the rivalry has been somewhat one sided in favor of the Seminoles in recent years. Tonight would follow that trend as Clemson dropped its fifth straight decision to Florida State on the hardwood.
When you look at the mannerisms of these two teams, they are extremely similar. Both play with a defensive tenacity that they would like to be known for. Both have freakish athletes that will leave you with your jaw dropped at least once a game, and both of them are streaky teams that live and die by the run. The Tigers were going to get a taste of their own medicine tonight facing a stingy Florida State defense and a hard nosed mentality.
One remarkable difference pointed out in our Florida State Preview was the size of the Seminoles. Florida State has three players on the roster over 7'0" in Kiel Turpin, Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo. Many forecasted that it would be a long night for the Tiger big men, and as a result, we saw yet another change to the starting line up, with seldom used reserve Josh Smith getting his first career start to go along with Landry Nnoko, Rod Hall, Jordan Roper and K.J. McDaniels.
At first I questioned the move as many readers know; I am not the biggest fan of Josh Smith, but the first five minutes of the game proved me wrong. Landry Nnoko opened the scoring with a dunk after an inside feed from Rod Hall to get the Tigers on the board. Those would be the only two points of the first 5 minutes of the game for two reasons. First, the interior defense that Nnoko and Smith played was absolutely outstanding. Florida State immediately looked to use their height advantage and the interior passes just weren't there as Smith and Nnoko bottled up the Florida State bigs. Secondly, and a theme that would continue all night, Clemson just could not put the ball in the basket.
After the first television timeout came and went with just two Tiger points on the board, in came the offensive reserves as Adonis Filer, Damarcis Harrison, Sidy Djitte and Jaron Blossomgame checked in for the Tigers. Unfortunately, Florida State decided that it was time to send in their super-subs Ian Miller and Aaron Thomas as well. These two would spur a 11-0 run starting with a Miller feed to Jarquez Smith for a dunk. Miller would then drain a three pointer before Aaron Thomas scored consecutive baskets. Boris Bojanovsky would cap the rally with a dunk at the 12:45 mark and before you could blink, the Semionles were on top 11-2.
With the offense sputtering, Adonis Filer and Landry Nnoko made sure that the Tigers weren't put away early as Filer penetrated the lane twice and found a wide open Nnoko for back-to-back easy baskets to bring Clemson back within five points at 13-8. The Tigers only made two field goals in the remainder of the half, both threes by K.J. McDaniels and Damarcus Harrison. Luckily, they were still in the game because the sequences would basically be, Florida State would miss a shot, and Clemson would turn the ball over. After Adonis Filer drew a foul in the lane with 2 seconds remaining and hit both foul shots to become only the fourth Tiger to score in the opening half, and the Tigers would go into the locker room trailing 21-16 in a dismal half of basketball that was hard to watch at times. Although the offense was anemic from both teams, two things had me excited for the second half. The first, a loose ball scrum with 5:11 remaining in the half which saw five players all on the floor desperately scrambling for possession. That is what we expect from Clemson vs. Florida State. The second is something that stuck with me throughout the game, and that is the look in Brad Brownell's eyes shouting instructions to his players with under a minute to go in the half. There was fire in those eyes which made me feel that this team could ignite at any minute.
Unfortunately for Clemson fans, that fire did not transfer onto the court in the second half. K.J. McDaniels made a three out of the gate to trim the lead to 21-19 and that is as close as Clemson would get. Devon Bookert rattled off eight consecutive points to put the Noles up 29-19 in a two minute span. Clemson would trade baskets with the Noles and assist in some Florida State baskets themselves as going into the final 10 minutes of the game, Clemson had turned the ball over 14 times which resulted in 21 Florida State points.
After an Okaro White layup put FSU up 42-27, the Tigers had one final run in them. After an absolute dismal shooting night, Jordan Roper rattled off a three pointer and a long two from opposite corners and K.J. McDaniels followed an Adonis Filer miss with a monster put back dunk to cut the lead to 11, prompting a Florida State timeout.
Clemson had switched to a 1-3-1 defense at this point with K.J. McDaniels running the point to cause some turnovers, but Florida State would crack the code finding Montay Brandon over the top of the zone for two easy layups to hold the Tigers at bay after a Rod Hall three pointer once again cut the lead back to 11. However, Clemson would waste away its final crucial possessions as Damarcus Harrison would dribble the ball off of his foot and out of bounds and Rod Hall took a five second violation on an inbound play with a timeout remaining to give Clemson its season high 18th turnover. The final horn would sound and Florida State walked out of Littlejohn Coliseum with a 56-41 victory.
It is hard to find the positive after a performance like this. K.J. McDaniels led the Tigers in scoring with 14 (the only Tiger in double figures) on 5-11 shooting and Landry Nnoko put in a solid effort with 6 points and 6 rebounds. Josh Smith added five rebounds of his own, but scored only two points as his offensive game is still non-existent. Rod Hall and Jordan Roper would score 5 points each (both in a span of two possessions) while shooting 4 of 14. Adonis Filer also had a poor night from the field finishing with 6 points on 1-9 shooting.
This loss was squarely on the ball handlers as the Tiger big men held their own against superior competition. Clemson turned the ball over 18 times and made only 15 field goals....
I'll give you a minute to read that stat again... Clemson turned the ball over 18 times and made only 15 field goals.
Now that you've processed that, here is another one; the Clemson bench was outscored tonight 33-9. Ian Miller lead Florida State with 15 points while Aaron Thomas and Devon Bookert each added 10. Clemson shot only 30% from the field tonight and 5-19 from behind the ark.
The Tigers will have a quick turnaround as they host Duke on Saturday afternoon at 2pm at Littlejohn Coliseum. The game can be found on ESPN3 and local television affiliates.