First, if you're just looking up and realizing it's already basketball season, check out our Clemson Basketball Season Preview for some context as we begin discussing basketball here at STS.
The Tigers got off to the kind of start we were hoping. Obviously, a win was to be expected, but 45 points is a lot to win by. We briefly touched on some of the deficiencies the Rattlers had in this game's preview/gamethread, but even still I may have understated it. They're not a top 300 team (out of 351) and they lost their four main contributors from last season, but it goes beyond that. They lost literally every player on the roster and have a new coach. They may end up being worse than the 331st ranking KenPom gave them to start the season. I begin with that just to remind us to take the results of this game with a grain of salt and not drastically change our expectations - which is tempting because they were absolutely dominant.
11 Clemson players scored, including walk-on Riley McGillan. Five players scored double-digits. Clemson continued their dominant three-point defense that was #1 in the nation last season (28.5%) by holding the Rattlers to 0-7 for the game. Clemson bested the Rattlers in every standard statistic on the Box Score.
Clemson took about six minutes before they began blowing by FAMU. It was 9-8 at the 13:51 mark when Ajukwa hit a three-pointer. It sparked a 14-0 run as the Rattlers were held scoreless for six and a half minutes. After capturing a 23-8 lead, the Tigers never looked back. They scored 20 of their 41 first half points off turnovers and continued to use their defense to fuel the offense throughout the game. The half court offense still left a little to be desired, but the transition offense was very good. Clemson only forced opponents into turnovers on 17.3% of their possessions last season, a point below the national average. As good as the defense was, creating turnovers was not their forte. Tonight was an example of how forcing turnovers can in turn make Clemson's offense run smoothly.
Clemson was 7-25 for three for an FG% of 28.0 and a eFG% of 42.0, both below last year's numbers. Five of the misses came from Grantham who was 1-6 from three, but otherwise had a great day. He was a perfect 3-3 from two and a perfect 3-3 from the charity stripe to go with his one three-pointer for 12 total points. He reeled in 3 rebounds and had two blocked shots. Don Munson got a bit carried away after one and started the K.J. McDaniel comparisons, but it was a nasty looking rejection. He was active in the offense and although we'll be looking for him to improve his rebounding and assist numbers as the season goes on, it is clear he will be a major cog in the offense from the get-go and has the looks of a very special player for this program.
I was somewhat frustrated with Sidy Djitte. He finished with a team-high 8 rebounds, and we talked about his ability to contribute in that area. Still, I was hoping he'd be a bit less raw in year two. In just 13 minutes, he committed four personal fouls and inadvertently hit an opposing player in the face (giving him a visible black eye) that didn't get called. He also was just 2-5 from the FT line (which is a percentage improvement from 2-12 last season, but still). He certainly has an important role, but I was stunned in that Josh Smith actually looked better and took some of the minutes at center.
In our season preview, I wrote:
Smith is entering his junior season, so it's possible Coach Wineicki's magic is about to click, but it's more likely Josh Smith will continue to be limited athletically and fail to pose a scoring threat.
Why would I ever doubt Coach Wineicki? Smith looked much slimmer and quicker than last season. He had 6 rebounds, a great block, and was an efficient 2-3 from the field. He played with quicker feet than last season and only committed one foul. Again, I don't want to place to much emphasis on one game, especially because it was the weakest team Clemson will play all season (literally), but I was very encouraged by Josh Smith's play. If he has taken strides since last season, it gives Clemson much needed front court depth and allows Grantham to play at the three where he looked so good.
Finally, I thought Jordan Roper played his role as the spark off the bench beautifully. He scored 13 points, behind only Landry Nnoko who finished with a career-high 15. Roper finished 2-4 from three and connected on his patented pull-up mid-range jumper. He also served as the back-up for Rod Hall at point guard.
A quick run through other stats: Blossomgame finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds. Rod Hall only had 4 points, but was the catalyst for the offense with 10 assists. This team will lean on him heavily to be the straw that stirs the drink for this offense. Demarcus Harrison finished with 10 points and 2 rebounds while Austin Ajukwa tallied 7 points and 4 rebounds.
We'll be talking football on Saturday as Clemson is in Atlanta playing Georgia Tech. Clemson Men's Soccer edged Notre Dame on Friday and will play for an ACC Championship on Sunday. Clemson basketball is back in action the following day as they host Winthrop on Monday. We'll be talking about it all here.