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Tip Drill: Clemson Falls to Rutgers, 69-64

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Clemson throws away game to team projected to finish last in B1G.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

12/1/14 vs. Rutgers

Result: L 64-69
CU Leading Scorer: Demarcus Harrison (15)
Key Stat: Clemson committed 9 more TOs and 8 more fouls than Rutgers

  • Add another to the list of embarrassing losses. When Winthrop happened it was frustrating because we thought it would be that loss that could hang heavy around our necks on Selection Sunday. When we blew the game to Gardner-Webb, it stung because it was likely a very early death blow to any realistic chances of sneaking in. This one though, is the worst because it is starting to sink in that we're just not very good.

  • Clemson was unimpressive in the first half, especially early on. Their three-point defense was atrocious and Rutgers scored their first 9 points all from behind the three-point arc. They also got outscored on second chance points and points in the paint in the first half.

  • I often talk about how three-point defense is largely luck-based, but in this one the Tigers just left them open too often. That, coupled with a harsh reversion to the mean from last year's #1 3P% defense, and opponents are actually making open threes this year. Rutgers was 7-19 from three. Thats an eFG% of 55.3.

  • On positive, and I have to find something, was Jaron Blossomgame's offense. He made a three pointer, shot 75% from the line, and finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. His ability to drive to the basket has improved noticeably from last season. In time, hopefully his touch improves and he can convert more of those baskets, but that was the one encouraging take-away from this game.

  • Donte Grantham is already crucial to this offense. He got himself in foul trouble and the offense looked stagnant without him in the game. Harrison played a good game with 6-11 shooting, but he can't do it alone. Hall and Nnoko have severely underwhelmed all season. Hall shot just 3-10 and committed 3 TOs. He was unable to finish around the rim, possibly because of the ankle injury he suffered against High Point. Nnoko scored only 8 points and also committed 3 turnovers.

  • The biggest void I saw in this game versus what we saw last year with K.J. was the help defense. On multiple occasions I watched Nnoko watch as a Scarlet Knights player beat his man off the dribble and scored in the paint. That's Nnoko's paint to defend now! We don't want him to get into foul trouble, but so many of those baskets were blocked by K.J. last season. Clemson finished with 6 blocked shots, so it's not simply the lost blocks that are the problem, but the majority of McDaniels blocks were in help defense. Nnoko isn't providing that and the defense has regressed from elite to above average. The help defense must improve. 

  • The Tigers out-rebounded (39 vs. 30), out-blocked Rutgers (6 vs. 4), and shot almost an even percentage, but were so much worse in the turnover department they lost anyway. Clemson's defense got turnovers on just 5% of Rutgers' possessions while their offense ended in turnover 20% of the time.

  • Jaron Blossomgame has an Ortg of 119. Harrison had an even better Ortg of 122. Meanwhile Hall and Nnoko who we would have expected to lead the team in efficiency posted mediocre 95 and 90 marks.

  • On the season, Landry Nnoko's Ortg is down from 109 to 96.5. This is fueled by a horrible leap in TO Rate from 17.1 to 28.9. His rebounding, blocks, and FT% are up, but his turnovers are hurting very badly.

  • Most frustrating about this game is that although they didn't play well, they had a seven-point lead in the latter part of the second half and completely collapsed. A Blossomgame jumper put Clemson up 55-48 at the 7:41 mark. Clemson made one basket in the next 7:17. Landry Nnoko made some mistakes during that stretch that were excruciating to watch. An entry pass gave him a chance to stop the Scarlet Knight's run, but he fumbled the pass and lost the ball. Clemson would get a stop a bit later to keep their hopes alive, but Nnoko was unable to get the rebound and they would score on the second chance to extend the run to 14-2. Even still, Clemson was around with a chance to claw back into it, but Rod Hall missed two free throws at the 2:19 mark that kept them five points down. Clemson got another stop and had one last chance at a pipe dream comeback, but Nnoko got tagged for the moving screen. Clemson fell apart and it was the veterans making the mistakes.

  • At this point, we're hoping Nnoko can get back to where he was in the second half of last season, Hall can heal up and become a larger part of the offense, and we can watch Grantham develop into a star player. With the NCAA out of the picture, we'll focus on making the NIT. It's NIT or bust folks. "Playing in March with a chance to advance."

  • Clemson plays each of the next two Sundays against SEC schools. Arkansas is this Sunday on ESPNU. It'll be Clemson's only chance for a very good win in the non-conference slate. Auburn comes the next Sunday and it'll be on ESPN3.