Results: vs. Auburn - W 72-61
Next Game: Friday, Dec. 19, at South Carolina, 7 p.m.
Player of the Week: Damarcus Harrison - 19 points, 5 rebounds vs. Auburn
Clemson let an 11-point second-half lead dwindle to four with three minutes to play, but the Tigers made free throws down the stretch and pulled out a 72-61 victory over visiting Auburn on Sunday night. Clemson used a 17-3 run in the first half to build a 12-point lead it would never relinquish. Rod Hall had 20 points and Damarcus Harrison 19, while Jaron Blossomgame notched another double-double to push the Tigers to victory.
Clemson managed to get to the free-throw line 35 times in this game, making 26 for a 74.3% clip. That's not a spectacular mark but one that can certainly win you basketball games. It was encouraging to see Blossomgame finish 8 of 11 from the stripe after missing his first pair. No other player missed more than one free throw.
I wanted to make Rod Hall Player of the Week, because he had 20 points and made some key baskets, but I couldn't do it in good conscience knowing that he also had eight (!) turnovers. That's just an unacceptable number. He is attacking on offense better though and becoming a threat to finish in the paint.
Three-point shooting is far from a strength for this team, but they are better than the 2 for 14 showing they posted against Auburn. Harrison (2 for 4) was the only Tiger to hit from beyond the arc. You can't afford to shoot that poorly moving forward and expect to beat any good teams.
This was the first truly poor offensive performance from Donte Grantham, but he made up for it defensively with four blocks and four steals. It's impressive to see a freshman not allow offensive struggles to negatively affect his defensive effort.
Landry Nnoko was in foul trouble all game and could barely stay on the court, but he was at least effective in his 16 minutes of play with nine points and seven rebounds.
Josh Smith played as well as we have seen him play in his nine minutes of court time. He did miss a couple easy ones, but he was the leading scorer off the bench with six points and looks like he could actually contribute to some degree this season.
Patrick Rooks has not played in two games, and I'm not sure if he is in the doghouse or fighting injury or what the deal is. I can't imagine it's not one of those reasons, though, because Brownell has been playing the hapless Gabe DeVoe instead. We are also seeing less and less of Jordan Roper. I hope that changes soon, because he can really be the offensive spark off the bench that Clemson is sorely lacking at this point. I will admit there are games he is better suited to play in, and it's also hard to justify giving him extended minutes given how well Harrison has played.
Auburn is not a particularly strong team, but this was the best version of the team anyone has faced so far this season. Antoine Mason (the second highest scorer in the nation last season at Niagara) returned from injury after missing the Tigers' last six contests. They also added 7-foot-2 Trayvon Reed two days ago, and he was immediately eligible for the Clemson game (Bruce Pearl, ladies and gentlemen). He only played eight minutes, but a player that size is an automatic improvement to a basketball team.
The Tigers play their first true road game of the season when they travel to Columbia to face South Carolina on Friday night.