Clemson got a huge road upset over #10 Butler tonight, and despite finishing 2-1, which is what I hoped for and expected, I'm rather disappointed in this team because of the Guard play and the offense. I see serious problems that ACC play will make painfully obvious to everyone. I only was able to watch A&M and Butler, so I'll give my perspective on these two games.
Clemson came out and we were clearly better than A&M, but they shot cold on what the did get. We ran all over them and there was a distinct athletic advantage for us. A good team would’ve jumped out to a 15 point lead in the first 5 minutes, given the sluggishness I saw from A&M early. We could only manage 7-1. We just couldn't shoot the basketball worth a damn to take advantage. Eventually, with our offense so poor, our defense fell off too and we gave up too many open looks. Throughout the first half, my thoughts were this: that this team didn’t feel like playing. I saw rebounds hitting the floor, which should never happen. I saw guys not taking shots when they had a clear opportunity. It was sloppy on both ends and for both teams to start, but A&M corrected it and Clemson took until the 2nd half to wake up. We got close, thanks to Narcisse’s great effort, starting a 19-6 run, but the hole was too big.
What Clemson needed was the Guard who would charge the lane and attack the basket strong, and it wasn’t there. Its been something we’ve talked about as being a potential problem this year and today was the first real showcase of the problem. In the 1st half, even when Clemson got looks, we couldn’t sink baskets and Trevor Booker had a bad day overall in shooting despite 18 points. Towards the end, when the lead was under 10, Clemson needed a shooter like Oglesby, and no one stepped up.
Just a very disappointing first-half effort from the Tigers, and though they showed resiliency and played well late, the hole they dug themselves was too great.
"We came out in the first half and missed shots. We quit. I got frustrated. We tried to come back in the second half but we just couldn't It was physical in the first half, they outplayed us. In the second half we played better."
Long Beach State
Jerai Grant was sick with a high fever and didn't get in the game, but Tanner Smith pulled down 17, Stitt 16, Young 13. Lots of substitution and spreading the offense around. Offensively we shot very well but couldn't stop T.J. Robinson inside (25pts, 15Reb) or their Guard Casper Ware (20 pts 10 ast), particularly early on as it was very close in the 1st half. They just didn't have enough players to stick with Clemson's press and got tired. They didnt shoot well from the line when we gave them the opportunity. The most alarming stat to me is that we couldn't get any offensive rebounds.
Butler provided a clinic in breaking the Full Court Trap tonight in the first half especially. They pass down the court and then find a man in the paint for an easy lay-in that goes unchallenged by Booker. They space their players out, and whip us one on one all night long in half court sets. Their guards attack the lane, force us to commit, then pass out for an open shot. We didnt fight for rebounds when they did miss, which wasn't terribly often.
What OP did do was switch defensive strategies well. When we went to the half court trap, Butler didnt adjust immediately and we took advantage of it in transition. This was when we really started to put things together offensively, because in the first half, we didn't shoot worth a damn. All bricks. Hesitation in OPEN shots by everyone. Jennings had two clear shots in the first 5 minutes he was in, and didnt take them. The guards didnt attack.
Clemson offense: pass pass pass pass pass pass, rush a shot. We don't set good picks, and didnt all night. We don't seem to have any idea what to do until late in this game. We just pass the ball around, and hope somebody will make a play. We just cannot score in half court sets. We pass it inside, then the big guy decides to put it on the floor when he doesnt have to. They'll collapse on him and steal it in ACC and Tourney play. The biggest bright spot to me was Tanner Smith again, this kid plays basketball hard start to finish. However, if he's our leading offensive threat, we have issues. Stitt looks better than Young at the Point, but only decided to attack the lane late in the game, and finished with 19 points.
Butler did appear to get a little tired and confused at the end, and with us finally hitting shots and playing good defense, we managed to squeak this one out. I'm still surprised we won it, they clearly shot better and rebounded with more effort. Huge road win for Purnell and a tough, hard-fought victory to be proud of.
A&M beat #22 Minnesota 66-65 in their last game, and Long Beach upset UCLA 79-68 today. West Virginia should handle Portland tonight. We will likely either stand pat or move up in the next poll, but I really hope we don't move up much because this team does not have the offense to compete yet. I don't think we're a better team than Butler, they did get fatigued by the pressure but I think with a little break here or there they win it. I do think we're better than A&M.
Now for Illinois in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge....