The Clemson Tigers (13-5) (4-2) traveled to Pittsburgh (17-2) (5-1) on Tuesday night and were embarrassed by the Panthers by a score of 76-43. Much was made of the pre-game matchup between forwards K.J. McDaniels and Lamar Patterson, two of the most athletic and underrated players in the ACC. This game wasn't only a match up between these two players, it was also being hyped as a battle for 2nd place overall in the ACC.
The talk of a great matchup didn't last long. McDaniels got the scoring started hitting a mid-range jumper to put the Tigers up 2-0. From that moment on, it was all Pitt. Pitt immediately rattled off an 11-0 run with buckets from Talib Zanna, Cameron Wright and a three from Lamar Patterson.
After McDaniel's early bucket and during the Pittsburgh run, Clemson reverted to the way that it played during the Florida State game. In the 8 possessions after the McDaniels jumper, Clemson shot 0/4 and turned the ball over on four conescutive possessions. Meanwhile, Pitt was scoring at will, penetrating on the inside and making beautiful passes for wide open layups and dunks. This would be a theme all night.
Clemson called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding and the message was clear that Clemson needed to penetrate and get to the free throw line. Jordan Roper pulled up and hit an elbow jumper while being fouled and converted on the three point play. Adonis Filer would then drive to the basket and get fouled and convert on 1 of 2 free throws to make the score 11-6 with 13:28 to play.
Pitt would then go on another run, this time a 13-4 run, that put the Tigers back on their heels. Pitt just couldn't miss. Not known for their three point shooting, Pitt nailed 3 three pointers, two from Cameron Wright and one from James Robinson to extend the lead to 24-10. The only reason that Clemson was as close as they were at the end of the half came from Rod Hall who hit two three pointers, the second coming at 4:26 to cut the lead back to 10 at 28-18.
Pitt would call timeout after the Hall three pointers, gather themselves, and throw the haymaker. James Robinson answered the Rod Hall three with a three pointer of his own as Pitt would end the half on a 9-2 run by going inside to Talib Zanna for repeated wide open layups, and the Tigers went into the half down 37-20.
It was one of the worst halves of Clemson basketball that I have ever seen. They matched their total baskets made (8) with turnovers, shot 8-23 from the field, 2-9 from behind the arc, and only got to the free throw line 3 times in the entire half. On the other side, Pitt was playing outstanding, shooting 12-21 from the field, 4-7 from behind the arc, and was 9-11 from the line with 12 assists.
The Tigers came out in the second half looking to cut into the deficit and get back to playing Tiger basketball, but the first possession would put an end to that. After 34 seconds of stingy defense, Lamar Patterson put up a Hail Mary three pointer over an outstretched Landry Nnoko that put the exclamation point on the fact that this was not the Tigers night.
The second half would feature additional Pitt runs of 12-0 and 11-0 in a span where the Tigers went over 7 minutes without a field goal. One look at Brad Brownell's face just showed that the Tigers were over matched the players were not playing with passion or enthusiasm. To send a message, Brownell benched most of his starters right before the second television timeout and put in seldom used reserves Carson Fields and Austin Ajukwa.
Brownell's frustration and confusion became even more apparent when after a breakaway dunk, Ajukwa was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim and Brownell ran to the timeline screaming "We're down by 40!" in the direction of Austin. Pitt would continue to surge on to a 76-43 victory.
Let's take a look at what went wrong for Clemson tonight. Everything. After McDaniels picked up his second foul and had to leave the game with just over 13 minutes remaining in the first half, the offense was anemic. There was no lane penetration as Pitt would hang their big man up top after the high ball screen since they knew Clemson had no intention of delivering the pass to their bigs on the screen and roll.
It was also one of the worst defensive performances that I have seen from the Tigers. Clemson was just demolished in the paint. The entry pass and extra interior pass from Pitt wasn't contested at all. As a result, Talib Zanna finished with 22 points on 9-10 shooting. Pitt finished the game winning the points in the paint battle 28-12.
Unforced errors were once again a problem for Clemson, coughing the ball up 14 times leading to 24 Pitt points. K.J. McDaniels was the only Tiger in double figures tonight scoring 11 points on 4-11 shooting. Rod Hall, Jordan Roper and Sidy Djitte all added 6 points each.
Pittsburgh was lead by Talib Zanna's 22 points. Lamar Patterson added 13, Cameron Wright added 12 on 5-8 shooting and Josh Newkirk added 10 on 4 of 4 shooting before fouling out in the final minutes. The ACC's leading defense allowed Pitt to shoot 56.3% from the field, and 53.3% from three point range. Pitt had 24 assists to 10 turnovers, while Clemson managed only 9 assists to their 14 turnovers.
Clemson has four days off to recover from this embarrassment before they travel to Chapel Hill, where they have yet to win a game, on January 26th at 6pm. Stay tuned to STS for more Clemson Basketball coverage.