1/11 vs. Duke
Leading Scorer: KJ McDaniels (24)
Key Stat: Jaron Blossomgame collected 14 rebounds
- Clemson poured their heart out this afternoon. What a difference two days can make. After an embarrassing performance against FSU, Clemson was energized and the crowd was raucous. Let me start by complimenting the students. After mediocre attendance for most of the season, its amazing what a brand name like Duke will do to generate interest. You were great, students! You were loud, energetic, and supportive. The crowd played a role in this one, as they should in all Clemson home games. I hope to see another packed house for Wake Forest next weekend. Below is the video of the students rushing the court after the shocking win.
- I call it a shocking win, because I truly am shocked. I can eat crow (or as one of our loyal readers says, "eat my shirt") when I'm wrong so I do that now. I called this a "throw away game." I knew we were better than the team that lost on Thursday, but I really thought we were a year away from this type of basketball, especially on offense. Of course, now you can see why I think this can be a NCAA tournament team in 2014-15.
- Duke has some incredible offensive talent. Rodney Hood impressed me as much as Jabari Parker. On one play he was smothered by K.J., but got about an inch of separation and fired up a three in his face. Somehow it fell. He ended with 20 points on 7-16 shooting (3-5 from three).
- Speaking of elite players, what a way for K.J. McDaniels to announce his emergence as a legitimate star in the ACC. I expect to see him in the NBA in two years as he gets better every day. He finished this one with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocked shots--with each block feeling like a game changer. On one particular play, Nnoko had a great seal out that allowed McDaniels to get to the rim. K.J. did a better job attacking the basket rather than settling as he has in a couple games this season. I love that he has developed an above-average jump shot, but he's best in "attack mode." He truly played like a star on a big stage and it was enough to keep us within striking distance until Clemson's defense settled in and begin dominating Duke in the second half.
- Duke switched to a 2-3 zone to close out the first half which prompted Clemson to break out the old Oliver Purnell style offense. That is, pass it around the three point line for 30 seconds and then take a (hopefully semi-open) three. McDaniels hit actually hit one of those threes to calm the storm and Duke thankfully moved out of the zone. In hindsight, that K.J. three may have saved the game, and I think Coach K was mistaken to abandon the zone so quickly.
- Duke only scored 22 in the second half. With the immense talent they have, and it was obvious at times, that's laughable. Clemson simply wanted this more, the crowd was engaged, and in the closing minutes--shocking to many--Clemson didn't flinch.
- After halftime Hall started attacking the basket. He hadn't done it against FSU or in the first half today.
I'm guessingBrownell emphasized it at halftime (confirmed in his post game interview), which needed to happen. He's extremely effective and makes our offense go when he is penetrating and drawing fouls. When we have Rod Hall and K.J. attacking the basket, our offense is good enough to win games... against Duke apparently. Rod Hall had a big second half, scoring all 11 of his points after the break. He got to the FT line seven times and knocked down some big free throws to seal the deal at the end. At the start of the season the plan was for Hall and Roper to share the point guard slot, but Hall is clearly the primary (and best) point guard and Roper found his role as the much needed shooter at the #2 spot.
- Thank goodness Landy Nnoko didn't get into bad foul trouble. He played a big role in this one and I'm not confident in the reserves behind him. Nnoko 10 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks. His defense was a tremendous factor. He is one of Brad Brownell's best player development stories.
- Blossomgame was tenacious! He is my favorite player, a great kid (by all accounts), and is from the same area of Atlanta where I grew up. That said, I've been very frustrated with him lately. He hasn't rebounded. He's been tentative on offense, and it finally came to a head on Thursday when Brownell opted to start Josh Smith against FSU and only use Blossomgame for four minutes (largely a matchup issue). In this one he posted his first career double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. He had never posted double-digit points or rebounds. In a search to explain his mediocre play over the last six or so games I've turned to his leg injury, but now it's time to say "he's back." He's healthy. Jaron Blossomgame is the playmaker we said he was and if he continues to play this way, we'll exceed the expectations (15 wins) I had for this team coming into the season. I couldn't be happier for Jaron.
- One last note on Jaron. Did you see that smirk he had after making basket after basket. He was having fun out there. He was loose. He was leaving it all out on the court. He was getting the crowd fired up and he was battling with bigger players and coming away with rebound after rebound. 14 to be exact. He also hit two of Clemson's four three-pointers.
- A big reason for the upset is that Duke stopped crushing us from three. They shot an excellent 45.5% from three in the first half, but went cold and only finished at 32%. If you live by the three, you die by the three. They attempted more than double our shots from beyond the arc (25 to 11).
- The youth of this team should be pretty apparent by now. The FSU game was honestly embarrassing. Had Clemson played this well on Thursday, I'm confident they would have beat the Seminoles. This team badly needed some confidence and this should do the trick. Additionally, I hope this sparks the students and locals to get out there and pack Littlejohn for the bulk of the ACC schedule.
- Clemson left 12 points at the FT line and I felt like this could turn into a classic OP heartbreaker. Fortunately, Clemson's defense was solid down the stretch (and Duke went ice cold).
- Jordan Roper came out hot, but hurt and had to get stitches at halftime. I don't believe it was on the fall after his big dunk.
- Next up Clemson travels to Virginia Tech on Wednesday. VT has lost their first two games of their home ACC schedule (Syracuse and BC). If this same Clemson team comes to play it shouldn't be close. If the team that played on Thursday arrives in Blacksburg, they will ruin all the excitement from this win. It's one of the few conference road games that we "should win." Now we'll see how mature and focused we are coming off the biggest win for anybody on this roster.