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Tip Drill: K.J. Shoulders Load, Clemson Advances Past Georgia State

Despite an ailing shoulder, K.J.shouldered the load posting career highs in points and rebounds as Clemson advanced past Georgia State and is now only 2 wins away from Madison Square Garden.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

3/18 vs. Georgia State

Result: 78-66 Victory
Leading Scorer: K.J. McDaniels
Key Stat: K.J. McDaniels shot .818 from the field and .833 from the FT line and posted a Ortg of 183.

  • The NIT doesn't matter, right? A raucous Littlejohn Coliseum crowd and 2 teams that left it all on the court may beg to differ. Consider this, in 2007 Clemson made a deep NIT run, reaching the NIT Championship game in Madison Square Garden before losing to West Virginia. They followed that season with the only 4 year streak of NCAA tournament appearances in program history. Talk about a springboard! Upon hearing about Clemson's NIT berth, Jaron Blossomgame explained that it was his goal to play in New York City, where he has never been. In McDaniel's postgame interview, he called MSG the "Mecca of basketball." This team has a goal in mind and seems determined to get there. Clemson has never won an ACC or NCAA tournament (the only charter member who hasn't) and may not not do either for a very long time. This tournament presents a legitimate opportunity for the first postseason championship in program history.

  • Clemson entered this game 9-0 in NIT home games while Georgia State carried a 0-24 record vs. ACC teams. This was not one we wanted to lose, even if Georgia State is ranked above 7 ACC teams by KenPom.

  • We have to start with K.J. McDaniels. Though he still had the shoulder wrapped, he was outstanding. After struggling with his 3-point shot for a handful of games, he hit 2-3 from range and finished an amazing 9-11 from the field for 30 points. He did a great job attacking the basket and getting to the line where was 10-12. He had a career high 14 rebound--many of which were of the high-flying variety--and completed a couple of alley-oops and more than a couple emphatic dunks that give me confidence his shoulder will hold up for a deep NIT run. He started the game by scoring the team's first 5 points and 7 of the first 9 and ended the night by sealing the win with his 5th and best block of the night. On that final block, he was standing on the opposite side of the court watching the play develop. Sensing the opportunity, he put his hand on the nearby Harrison and made him switch onto the man further from the basket. When the ball got into the lane he was then in position for the block. Harrison turned that into a transition, dagger 3-pointer.

  • Georgia State opened (and stayed) in a zone defense which has typically spelled trouble for our offense. Clemson countered with "timely fast breaks." There were 64 possessions (each) in this game, the most in a game ending in regulation since VMI. It was a little more fast paced than we normally like to play, but we were able to take advantage of their defense as they struggled to find the ball and were victimized by passes over the top of the zone before it was set. (Nod to Brownell for this coaching adjustment.)

  • At about the 12 minute mark Djambo had one of the best post moves we've seen from him year. The announcers said we wanted to pound it inside which seemed logical at the time, but we only managed 10 total shots between Djambo, Nnoko, Smith, Blossomgame, and Djitte combined (3-10). That is partially due to Nnoko getting into foul trouble for the first time in a while. He's done a better job getting his FC/40 down in the last couple of weeks, but committed 2 fouls in the first 9:28 of play and was limited to 25 minutes and finished with 4 personal fouls.

  • The Panthers started two players at the post who measured at 6'6" and 6'9". Although, we did not use the post players to attack them as much as expected, what we did worked just as well. K.J., Rod, and Demarcus were aggressive attacking to the basket and refused to settle for mediocre jump shots. Without a major shot blocking threat, this was a must. Georgia State finished with only 3 blocks.

  • For a while it seemed like a Batman and Robin act between K.J. and Rod Hall. McDaniels was great and certainly the star of the show, but Rod Hall was putting passes on the money for him all night. He set up multiple fantastic alley-oops and made some great plays in transition. He finished with 6 assists which is a number he has topped only once all season (7 vs. BC). Unfortunately, he also had 5 turnovers. He made some great plays and well as some ugly ones and both his assist and TO numbers are likely inflated by the higher number of possessions in this game.

  • Jordan Roper continued his strong play hitting 4-10 shots including 2 3-points. He also added a free throw and 4 assists en route to a 128 Ortg. He has now scored 41 points in his last 4 games after scoring just 16 points in the 8 games prior. Having him contribute off the bench makes a big difference for this team. It'll be very interesting to see how he develops and maybe more so how Brownell utilizes him throughout the NIT and into next season.

  • Demarcus Harrison played another strong game as he chipped in 17 points just about as quietly as you can. he hit the dagger 3-pointer following the big McDaniels dunk in the closing minutes and finished a number of plays in transition throughout the night. In addition, he only had 1 turnover and continues to lead the team in TO%.

  • Very few negatives to talk about but the biggest is the Jaron Blossomgame injury. He was blocked (arguably fouled) and landed awkwardly. The game was stopped and he was helped off the court. I was concerned he had reinjured the same leg in which he had suffered the "Kevin Ware injury." Upon review it seemed like he did the splits and it was unrelated to his previous injury, however I am hearing it is the same leg so we will see. Hopefully everything is ok, especially long-term.

  • I was disappointed by our rebounding. The Panthers missed 44 field goals, while we missed just 27, however we only ended the game with 5 more rebounds. That's losing the rebound battle (and also way rebounding margin is deceiving). We grabbed 68% of defensive rebounding opportunities and 31% of offensive rebounding opportunities while they snared 69% and 32%. It was a close battle to be sure, but given our size advantage I was irked that we couldn't win this battle outright.

  • Our 3-point defense was shabby. We allowed them to shoot 20 3-pointers at a .350 clip. Many of which were open shots. Had they been on fire like Robert Morris it would have been a bigger problem. To put that percentage into perspective, multiply it by 1.5 to make it an effective FG% (since 3-pointers are worth 150% as much as 2-pointers) and it jumps to .525. That kept them close.

  • The 3-point line has a way of inducing upsets and that's exactly what it did in the ESPNU game prior to ours. The #1 seeded team in our quadrant, St. John's, came out flat and got lit up by Robert Morris. St. John's was down by 22 at half, had a 15-0 run around the 4 minute mark of the second half, but still lost by 11, 89-78. The Robert Morris Colonials hit an anomalous 16 3-pointers (.500), including 9 by Karvel Anderson. The statisticians (Ken Pomeroy/Nate Silver) gave the Colonials about the same chance to win as they are giving Eastern Kentucky over Kansas in the first round. You've got to appreciate the lucky breaks we've gotten (Illinois arena renovation, St. John's Upset) to avoid road games. Clemson is guaranteed to not play any road games in the NIT.

  • If you didn't catch it in my last post, I'll restate it here. Illinois is having some renovations done to their arena so they are playing on the road throughout the NIT, despite being a #2 seed. They're playing Boston U in Boston on Wednesday and are no sure thing to advance, but either way I believe our path to MSG is wide open. Check back for SuperTigerC's preview and projections for our next game (Sunday, 11:00 AM). Another thing to look for, the baseball team will be in action Wednesday at 6pm for a rematch after a 5-14 drubbing from Georgia Southern. You can listen to that on 104.9 The Drive which is streamed online.