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Clemson Falls Apart, Loses to Arizona 66-54

Generally I begin writing the game recaps as soon as the clock hits 0:00. I can get worked up from time to time during the games, but feel like I can separate from my emotions at game's end to write a level-headed recap. Well, tonight was a little different. Tonight the dog got a nice long walk following the game so that I could gather my thoughts and try to rationally put into words what I saw on the court.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

This was a game of wild runs. Clemson had one great run, but Arizona had two. That's the difference in the ball game. We'll get into why those runs happened in a minute, but here are the runs:

  • Arizona 22-8 to start the game
  • Clemson 34-14 to take a 6 point 2nd half lead
  • Arizona 30-12 to end the game

So what happened?

I'll start by saying that Arizona is a very good basketball team. Sean Miller is an excellent coach and has a nice blend of veteran leaders and talented freshmen. The guys they put on the court can all score the basketball, which makes them a tough team to defend. They shoot it very well from deep and have great size inside to pull down the rebounds on misses. And that's what they did to Clemson for most of the night. They were able to pull down 17 offensive rebounds on 40 missed shots (42.5% offensive rebound rate). Clemson did a great job of forcing tough shots, but when you can't get rebounds the 2nd attempt is usually a chippy. On the flip side, Clemson pulled down 8 offensive rebounds on 32 missed shots (25%). When you are able to rebound your misses at that rate it doesn't matter that your offense isn't clicking.

Aside from that, we simply aren't playing (or coaching) smart basketball and are failing to make plays in crucial moments. Part of the problem is that we lack a go-to player on the offensive side of the ball. I think K.J. McDaniels should be that guy. However, I'm not sure if he knows yet that he should be that guy and I'm sure his teammates don't know who should be that guy. As a result, we end up with the ball in Josh Smith's hands on 2 out of 3 possessions in a tight ball game with under 8 minutes left. The results weren't pretty. Half the blame is on the guards for feeding him the ball and the other half of the blame is on him for thinking he needs to make a play. And I'm not trying to throw Josh Smith under the bus, because he's a freshman that was in way over his head in this game. But it is just a prime example of the lack of composure we play with, which leads us to make stupid decisions. If you don't like that example you could point to any number of instances: Jennings running an ill-advised fast break, Damarcus Harrision trying to go 1 on 4, Jordan Roper taking quick shots, etc, etc. Good teams don't make these mistakes. They gather their composure during tense situations and find their go-to players to run their offense through.

We are are also lacking leadership, because a leader would help steer this team in the right direction in crucial situations. Ideally you'd like that to be your PG, since he has the ball in his hands the majority of the time. He can dictate where the play goes. Especially since Brownell is primarily running high ball screens for his PGs and letting the offense play through them. This approach didn't work out too well in this game, as Rod Hall, our starting PG, had a very bad night with 5 turnovers.

I mentioned earlier that we aren't coaching smart basketball either. I had a couple of issues with Brownell's decisions in this game. I thought he left Jennings on the bench too long in the 2nd half (never thought I'd be saying those words). We had the lead with under 10 minutes to go, yet Jennings was still sitting on the bench with 3 fouls (which he ended the game with, I might add). My other big issue is Brownell going to a 1-3-1 zone late in the game. Brownell may want to put that one back in his playbook and leave it there. We do not have a clue how to play a 1-3-1. Our guys don't know what their assignments are when they are in a zone and run around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. Arizona turned a single digit lead into a route by shredding our pathetic 1-3-1. That call was a major backfire.

This game was yet another wake up call that we need to up our talent level. Arizona goes 10 deep with guys that can score. Clemson struggles to get 5 guys on the court at a time that can put the ball in the basket. However, K.J. McDaniels and Adonis Filer are steps in the right direction.

We had two opportunities to get a marquee out of conference win against Gonzaga and Arizona and we swung and missed. We played both opponents tough, but weren't able to pick up a W. We need to finish out the non-conference schedule strong by beating the teams we are supposed to beat before hosting FSU on Jan 5th.