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Tigers shake off bad loss against Gardner-Webb, drop Nevada and LSU

Clemson gave away its opening game at the Paradise Jam but bounced back to notch two wins.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson led by 11 points at the 8-minute media timeout in its opening game at the Paradise Jam against Gardner-Webb but couldn't hold the lead, as a techincal foul on the Tigers allowed the Bulldogs to go ahead 72-70 on two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to clinch a comeback win.

Inbounding the ball under its own basket in a tie game, freshman Donte Grantham couldn't find an open man and called a timeout. The Tigers, according to the official scorebook, had none remaining, which earned them a techincal foul and allowed Gardner-Webb to take the lead.

Clemson's Jordan Roper drove the length of the floor and missed a runner, and Landry Nnoko and Rod Hall both missed tip-back attempts to seal the Tigers' fate in a second straight embarrassing loss to a Big South school.

The Tigers wasted a 49% shooting night and strong performances from Damarcus Harrison (19 points) and Rod Hall (16) in a loss in which they allowed the Bulldogs to pull down 17 offensive rebounds and make 11 three-pointers.

On Saturday, Clemson used a 16-0 first half run to pull away from Nevada and never allowed the Wolfpack to get closer than eight points as the Tigers won 59-50 behind 13 points from Jaron Blossomgame.

The Tigers emerged from a back-and-forth battle victorious against LSU on Monday, going 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the final minute and coming up with a defensive stop in the closing seconds.

Harrison and Hall again played well, scoring 16 and 14 points, respectively. Grantham went 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and chipped in 13 points in the win.

Clemson played without backup center Sidy Djitte and overcame foul trouble from Nnoko and Blossomgame to edge frontcourt-heavy LSU.

Post-tournament Thoughts

The Gardner-Webb loss was unacceptable, and Clemson now has two such losses on the young season and has put itself very much behind the eight-ball as far as any hopes of contending for an NCAA Tournament spot. I know the loss to Winthrop was at home, but this one felt worse just because of the manner in which in happened. The Tigers had the game well in hand with under eight minutes to play, but poor play and coaching down the stretch allowed Gardner-Webb to steal one.

That said, you have to credit the team for not mailing it in after a second straight disheartening loss. They got up big early on Nevada, and they could have easily folded against LSU but made some plays (and free throws) late to gut out a win.

Clemson still has a ton of work to do to make up for its early losses, but the last two games were a start.

Damarcus Harrison is shooting the ball well, especially from midrange. He is still streaky at times, but he looks confident and can hopefully continue being a weapon offensively.

I want Nnoko to be more involved in the offense, but it's hard when you can't trust him to take care of the ball in the post. He is averaging 3.5 turnovers per game. That is unheard-of for a post player. Some of it also spawns from him throwing lazy outlet passes that turn into steals. You just can't have those, but he continues to do this. Nnoko has also probably already set a single-season record for three-second calls just five games into the season.

Blossomgame really struggled offensively today, going 4 for 16 in what was otherwise a pretty efficient shooting game for the Tigers. We heard all off-season about his improved three-point shot, but I am yet to see any evidence of this. For what it's worth, I have been impressed with his ability to drive to the basket, which is a good alternative to jacking up threes. He needs to finish a little more consistently, but I am liking his improvement in this area. He also has struggled mightily from the free-throw line, and he will have to be better there or else people will just elect to foul him mercilessly whenever he gets into the paint.

This team has to box out better. They allowed 17 offensive rebounds against Gardner-Webb and 18 against LSU. They are not big enough to just stand around and try to rebound. This goes for every position on the court.

Hall played well today except for one awful turnover and won the game with his free-throw shooting.

Donte Grantham is the best basketball player Clemson has had in some time. This kid is very skilled and has a great feel for the game, especially for a freshman. He will be a special player here.