2/11 at Notre Dame
Result: 64-68 (2OT) Defeat
Leading Scorer: K.J. McDaniels (30)
Key Stat: McDaniels had 18 more points, 7 more rebounds, and 5 more blocks than any other Tiger.
- There's a lot to talk about in what was easily our most entertaining game of the season. We battled back from 9 points down in the second half and didn't tie the game until the 0:04.6 remained. We missed an opportunity to win it when Rod Hall missed the first of the two free throws at the end of regulation. We missed another opportunity to win it when McDaniels missed an open 3-pointer as time expired in the first OT. Finally, we were KO'd when Nnoko missed a lay-up and Notre Dame turned it into a transition 3-pointer from freshman Steve Vasturia.
- Brad Brownell deserves all the credit in the world for what was one of the better coached games I've seen in a very long time. The switch to the 1-3-1 zone with K.J. playing the role of free safety sparked the comeback. The play he drew up the the end of the first overtime was beautiful. K.J. set two screens before getting open himself for a game-winner. Unfortunately he didn't knock it down, but Brownell can't control that. My one point of criticism would be the number of minutes he gave Filer. Filer had another game with almost no positive contribution (just one offensive rebound) yet he stole minutes from Roper and then Blossomgame down the stretch as we went with a small lineup. Filer, who posted an offensive rating (Ortg) of only 6, played 25 minutes, just 1 fewer than Roper and 3 more than Blossomgame.
- K.J. McDaniels was outstanding. His 30 points are a career high, but his 14 rebounds were nearly as important. Add to that five blocks and two steals and it's one of the best individual performances from an ACC player this season. It's a shame he didn't sink one of the couple different game-winners (one literal, some de facto) or this game would go down in the books as one of the greatest individual performances in recent ACC history. He had thirty of the teams 64 points.
- Nnoko picked up his second foul fairly early in the game when he "pulled out the chair" and the offensive player fell. Without the benefit of replay, it looked to me like a travel and reminded me of the old Karl Malone defense (see video below where he pulls the chair away from the great Elden Campbell). This call greatly changed the game. Sidy Djitte was out with an ankle injury so Josh Smith played significant minutes in the first half as Nnoko rode the pine. After Josh Smith badly missed an elbow jumper and then committed a poor foul on the other end Brownell pulled him in favor of Djambo. When Blossomgame picked up his second foul, Brownell went with Josh Smith (who posted an Ortg of 48) and Ibrahim Djambo in the post. Unfortunately this had a big impact on the game.
- With all the foul trouble, we were lucky to be down only 5 at halftime. At that point Harrison and McDaniels had 25% and 50% of our points, respectively.
- I was happy with Blossomgame's effort on the glass tonight. He grabbed 7 rebounds in only 22 minutes. I find Brownell's decision to hold him out of the game down the stretch vexing, especially given his decision to replace him with Josh Smith after Jaron picked up his second foul towards the end of the first half. It was pointed out to me that this was due to a couple of defensive lapses, which if so, does explain it.
- Checking in on SuperTigerC's commentary from the game preview, Clemson only turned the ball over on 11.9% of the possessions (8 times). Unforunately we only shot 41.5% from 2-point territory which trailed Notre Dame and was the difference in the game. Spot on with the preview!
- This team is much better when Nnoko is on the court, but man does he miss a lot of lay-ups. In the closing moments of the game, he missed a contested lay-up that would have put Clemson up 3 and may have given us the win. That was one of about 4 that he missed. To his credit, he did appear to call out the open shooter (who nobody picked-up, obviously). He also knocked down two clutch FTs that sent the game into double OT after making a fantastic defensive play to steal the ball and a heads-up decision to go up with the ball and draw a whistle. He finished 1-6 with 4 points and 5 rebounds in 37 minutes
- Let's also give credit to Demarcus Harrison who made some big plays. It'll be overlooked, but his kick ball at the end of the first overtime stopped what would have been an open 3-pointers and gave us a chance to win on the ensuing possession.
- Sadly, we were wise in saying we wouldn't consider this a potential NCAA tournament team until they beat Notre Dame. With a tremendous challenges in the next game (UVA) and the final game (Pitt) Clemson would have to win the 5 in-between to have a reasonable chance of selection heading in the ACC tournament. Realistically this team should finish .500 or better in the ACC which blows the doors off everyone's predictions. It speaks volumes to the improved chemistry (I'll let you guess why in the comments), the coaching, and the hard work the players have put in to get better. Some extra home games and a trip to New York in the NIT is nothing to frown about for this young group. Our goals remain intact.