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Tip Drill: Clemson Squeaks by Belmont, Heads to Madison Square Garden

With Clemson's win over Belmont, they head to Madison Square Garden for the NIT's Final Four starting Tuesday, April 1st.

Maddie Meyer

3/25 vs. Belmont

Result: 73-68 Victory
Leading Scorers: Demarcus Harrison (16), K.J. McDaniels (16)
Key Stat: Teams combined for 51 3-point attempts.

  • Clemson again went with a small starting lineup that included Hall, Roper, Harrison, McDaniels, and Nnoko. Facing a small skilled opponent without Blossomgame, this was the right call and Roper immediately awarded Brownell by scoring 10 of Clemson's first 17 points. Belmont couldn't match his speed. He had the hot hand early before missing a few shots and picking up his 2nd foul in the first half. After that, he disappeared. He finished with 12 points. Roper has been a spark plug whether in the starting lineup or off the bench. He has been very valuable for that and played a huge role in this win, but I'm curious why he so often disappears after a quick start. I'd love to hear your opinion in the comments section below.

  • Here's what grinds my gears. Landry Nnoko had 3 FG attempts. In 36 minutes, Nnoko did a great job staying out of foul trouble (2 personal fouls) and led Clemson in rebounds (9) and blocks (4). He was the tallest and strongest player on the court, yet only took 3 shots. To me that's unacceptable. Belmont did a great job of ball denial making the post-entry pass difficult, but somehow you have to make it happen. Brownell touched on this a bit, saying now that he is becoming a decent player he is going to have to get used to guys making it hard on him (5 min mark).

  • One of the television commentators made an astute observation about K.J. McDaniels that I'd like to reiterate. At 6'6" (according to ESPN), he is the size of an NBA 2-guard, but "his stroke does not equate to an NBA 2-guard" as evidenced by his .304 3P%. In the ESPN highlights after the game, one analyst asked if he would be back for his senior season to which his counterpart gave a strong affirmative saying with the amount he has improved from last year to this year he could take big strides next season and become a great shooter. It'd be scary to see what he could do with further skill development, but I agree with their sentiments.

  • That being said, McDaniels shot the ball well against Belmont. He also had 2 blocks (not much by his standards) and changed plenty of other shots. We didn't run many plays specifically for him, but he still managed 16 points and posted a 120 offensive rating (Ortg). He had a couple of his usual thunderous dunks, but only got the the FT line on an off-the-ball flagrant foul. He has only shot 2 free throws in each of his last 2 games. Hopefully it is unrelated to his shoulder injury.

  • Ibrahim Djambo can look to tonight's game to see 20% of his 3-point buckets for the season, as he hit 2 3-pointers--including 1 that turned into a 4-point play--giving him 10 on the season. As tight as this one was, he came through for us, but I still liked what the ESPN commentator had to say: "He thinks he's a stretch forward, but his numbers tell me differently." He gets all the credit in the world for a big game when we needed him, but I'm looking for development in other areas for him to become a bigger contributor next season.

  • Belmont missed 40 field goals (and 2 FTs) and grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. That's a .429 offensive rebounding percentage (OR%)! They corralled over 40% of their misses for a second try! K.J. McDaniels only snagged 2 defensive rebounds, which at the wing may be doable, but without Blossomgame was a major negative. Clemson only had a 258 OR% and a .519 DR%. Conversely, Belmont had an impressive .742 DR%. Early in the season we said we expected the rebounding to regress a bit, but we expected that to happen against the elite teams in the ACC, not the elite teams in the Ohio Valley Conference.

  • Belmont has 0 points off the bench and only used bench players for a grand total of 26 minutes.

  • Clemson switched on just about every ball screen, knowing even an inch of separation could be 3 points for Belmont. Still, the Bruins were able to find open 3-pointers as they surprised Clemson by pulling the trigger early in the shot clock and in transition. They missed their first 3 open looks, but starting heating up after that. They opened the second half with 3 consecutive 3-pointers and had Clemson on their heels for long stretches. Eventually, they cooled off and finished 12-32 (37.5%), which is below their season average (though still very good). 36 of their 68 points came from 3-pointers. That is above their normal distribution (about 1/3 of their total points typically come from 3-pointers). Clemson also seemed to get sucked into the 3-point shooting contest as we took 21 3s and hit 10 for a remarkable 47.6%.

  • Leading the way was Demarcus Harrison who had 3 of those 10 Clemson 3-pointers, all of which came in the final 7:17 of the game. Down the stretch when we desperately needed some scoring to close the gap, Harrison provided the heroics. First he buried a 3 with 7:17 remaining to tie the game at 58. At 4:14 he hit another to draw us within 2, 61-63. with 2:44 left, he hit his 3rd to put us up 67-66. Then he hit a clutch elbow jumper with 2 minutes to go that gave us a 69-68 lead we would never relinquish. True to form, he only had 1 turnover on the night and had a 122 Ortg. He is my player of the game.

  • While 3-point shooting was the trend of the game, the difference was 2-point shooting where Clemson shot 48.6% to Belmont's 39.4%.

  • Rod Hall struggled for a second straight game, and for a second straight game he shrugged it off and came through with a tremendous bucket in the final moments to put us up by 3. He was the only Tiger to post a sub-100 Ortg (74). He had 4 turnovers giving him 11 in his last 2 games. He's been one of our best players all season and will likely need to get back to playing more efficient basketball if we are to leave MSG with the trophy.

  • We have a week to prepare for either Cal or SMU (hopefully Cal because SMU will be a taller task and I'll get extra enjoyment from beating the "free spirits" from Berkeley). Hopefully we work on our inbound passing in that time. There have been multiple occasions where an inbounds pass nearly cost us (FSU, GSU) in addition to the well-known Pitt debacle. After a critical Belmont turnover, we gave it right back with a turnover on the ensuing inbounds. After another stop, Rod Hall committed a silly turnover as he passed it up-court to Filer. Fortunately, we got yet another stop and hung on. Hopefully this doesn't cost us a game in MSG, as it's been a problem for a while.

  • The win puts us at 45th in Ken Pomeroy's team rankings. That's better than 26 of the 68 NCAA Tournament teams. With that, I'll send us off with a timeless classic as an hat tip to my Brookyln-raised mother. It's off to the Garden in New York, New York.