With the North Carolina game in Chapel Hill in the rear view window, all we have heard about for the past week and a half has been "streaks, streaks, streaks". Saturday came, and with it, a new streak to talk about as Clemson (14-6) (5-3) traveled to Tallahassee to take on Florida State (13-8) (4-5) which had won the previous five meetings between the two teams, including a January shellacking in Clemson, 56-41.
Both teams came into this game absolutely stuck in reverse. Clemson was coming off being absolutely pasted in back-to-back games at Pittsburgh and at North Carolina, while Florida State was coming off back-to-back road losses of their own, a 22 point loss in Durham and a head scratching loss at NC State. That being said, both teams were still sitting in the top third of the ACC and in a game where something had to give, the winner would remain in that top third.
We had heard from Clemson Coach Brad Brownell and his players that there were going to be some changes in the offense this week. We will get into that a little later. The immediate move was at tip off as Adonis Filer got the start tonight along with Rod Hall, K.J. McDaniels, Jaron Blossomgame and Landry Nnoko.
The Tigers got started from the opening whistle, winning the tap and going inside to Nnoko and McDaniels slashing to the basket for a layup to take the quick 4-0 lead. McDaniels would start in a bit of a shooting funk, missing his next three shots with a turnover as Florida State would score the next 6 points to jump back on top 6-4.
It wasn't just McDaniels who started out cold from the floor, after his layup, the Tigers wouldn't make a field goal from the floor for the next 7 minutes and 36 seconds, with the only points coming from K.J. at the free throw line. It also looked like the Tigers were reverting back to the way they played in the previous meeting between the two teams in January as before the second television timeout, they turned the ball over on three straight possessions.
Luckily for Clemson, they decided to bring their defense with them today. Florida State had success early running the pin and seal in the low post where a guard would slash to the basket and the FSU big man would set a pick to seal off the help side defense for an easy lay up. (Florida States first 10 points came from inside the paint) The Clemson defense would adjust as they played with a tenacity that I haven't seen from them in the past couple of weeks.
Jordan Roper would end the over 7 minute field goal drought, drilling a three with a feed from McDaniels. K.J. then started to find his rhythm. After an Okaro White jumper put the Noles back in front 11-10, K.J. would score the next five points drilling a sideline jumper, and a three pointer that would put Clemson back in the lead 14-12.
The big turning point in the game came at this point in a way that nobody likes to see. Florida State Ian Miller went hard to the basket and was fouled by Sidy Djitte. After making both free throws and attempting to head back down the floor to play defense, play was immediately stopped as Miller limped immediately to the locker room with a sprained ankle and would not return.
With their leading scorer out, and their secondary bench scorer Aaron Thomas struggling, Florida State would have to find some different offensive production to put away the Tigers. This was a moment where Clemson could have went on a deciding run, however, their cold start continued as in the remaining part of the half, an Ibrahim Djambo jumper with 6:47 remaining would be the only other field goal that Clemson would score. Clemson was turning the ball over again, but luckily for them, so was Florida State.
Florida State would end the half with jumpers from Okara White and Robert Gilchrist to go into the half leading 20-17. It was a frustrating half of basketball. Clemson had turned the ball over 11 times and was shooting 27 percent from the field. At the same time, they had limited Florida State to 8 points off of the 11 turnovers and were playing the defense to keep them in a game that they should have been pulling away in.
The second half started just the way that the Tigers didn't want it to, with another turnover from Adonis Filer. Then after a pair of Boris Bojanovsky free throws, K.J. McDaniels strapped the team on his back once again. McDaniels found the hot hand, scoring 10 of the teams next 12 points starting with a hard drive to the basket for a bucket and the foul in transition and ending with a mid range jumper to put Clemson back up 29-26 with 14:23 left to play.
With Florida State keying on McDaniels, Clemson would go into another scoring funk, not scoring for another three and a half minutes, allowing Aaron Thomas to heat back up after being out for most of the first half with foul trouble. After finding themselves back down one point, the role players would have to step up, and that they did. Jaron Blossomgame with take a Rod Hall pass and nail a 3 with 11:06 to play to give Clemson the lead back 32-30.
From then on out, the energizer bunnies took over. In a game where runs were non-existent, Clemson found quick burst of energy for an 8-2 spurt that would put them ahead by 8 in a game where an 8 point lead felt like 28. Blossomgame was fed an interior pass by Jordan Roper and ended the play with a rim rocking slam. Florida State would counter by feeding Boris Bojanovsky down low. The 7'3" center made his move around Landry Nnoko expecting an easy 2. Little did he know that the blood hound K.J. McDaniels had tracked him down from 20 feet away and swatted the layup attempt off the backboard. Just like in baseball, you usually follow a nice defensive play with a home run, and in the next possession, Rod Hall drove to the basket and found McDaniels wide open in the corner and he buried the three pointer to extend Clemson's lead to 37-30.
Jordan Roper would hit a three pointer from up top (originally called a two and changed to a three during the next media timeout) to put Clemson up 40-32. Florida State would start to chip away from the foul line. Montay Brandon and Aaron Thomas both converted two free throws, before another pair from Devon Bookert closed the gap to 44-39 with just under three minutes to play.
The finishing blow would come from Jaron Blossomgame. After Rod Hall once again drew the Noles defense with a drive to the basket, he found Blossomgame open in the corner for his second big three of the game to put the game out of reach. Clemson would salt away the remainder of the clock with some painful moments, including an inbounds under the FSU basket that took three timeouts and resulted in a turnover. Luckily for us, the sequence ended in the play of the night as McDaniels turned it over and went midair to block the shot...only he didn't block it, he caught it! A la Sam Perry in Littlejohn Coliseum in 2007 against the same Florida State Seminoles. Clemson would run out the clock and come away with a big road victory, 53-49.
McDaniels was the star of the show tonight scoring 26 of the tigers 53 points on 9-18 shooting and 3 three-pointers. He would also grab 7 rebounds, and finish with 3 assists and 3 blocked shots. The second game ball goes to the only other Tiger in double figures, Jaron Blossomgame finishing with 10 with two huge three pointers that helped put the game away. Clemson held Florida State to shooting only 34 percent from the floor as Aaron Thomas was the only Nole in double figures tonight with 13.
Lets take a quick look at what Clemson did differently offensive tonight. It may have taken a while, but after other teams picked up on Clemson's high ball screen and drive, the Tigers have moved away from it. It looks like now the Tigers are running a more true motion offense with the picks coming away from the ball to free up the Tiger shooters and allowing Rod Hall more freedom to beat his man one-on-one to get to the basket. Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for more in depth breakdown of the new Tiger offense.
Clemson can enjoy a big road win for now, but not for long as they return to Littlejohn Coliseum to take on the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech Tuesday night at 8pm.