Results: @ No. 5 Louisville - L 58-52; @ Pittsburgh - W 71-62
Upcoming: Tuesday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m., @ No. 2 Virginia; Saturday, Jan. 17, 4 p.m., vs. Syracuse
Player of the Week: Jaron Blossomgame - 16.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Clemson held a surprising 22-18 halftime lead on the road against No. 5 Louisville, but a 17-0 run by the Cardinals to open the second half proved too much for the Tigers to overcome. Clemson countered with an 18-7 run of its own to cut the deficit to 42-40 but couldn't get any closer as Louisville held on for a six-point win.
The Tigers bounced back with a much better offensive showing at Pitt, jumping out to an 11-point first half lead and holding a five-point advantage at the break. The Panthers rallied to tie the game at 44, but Clemson would take control from there and pull away for a big win on the road.
The Tigers wasted an excellent defensive performance against Louisville - the Cardinals shot 32.7% from the field - by managing to shoot just 30.8% from the field themselves. The offense came alive though at Pitt, where the Tigers shot 47.1% including an uncharacteristic 8-18 from three-point range. That type of shooting, coupled with a solid 75% clip at the free-throw line, is a great recipe for a win on the road, and the Tigers capitalized on the performance.
Defensively, Brad Brownell has mixed in a lot more zone, and it gave both Louisville and Pitt some trouble. It wouldn't be a surprise to see that trend continue, as Clemson has not been as solid in its man-to-man defense as it was a year ago.
The biggest story from Saturday's game was the performance of the Clemson bench, which to that point had given the team little to no production in basically every game this season. Jordan Roper, Sidy Djitte and Josh Smith combined for 23 critical bench points and were quite honestly the difference in the game.
Landry Nnoko's poor play continued, but that blow was softened by Djitte and Smith both playing perhaps the best games of their careers. Hopefully feeling pressure from the backup post players will light a fire under Nnoko, who may be the team's most disappointing player thus far.
Jaron Blossomgame continued his stellar play, and Donte Grantham knocked down three three-pointers to bolster the Tigers' offensive effort. Nobody expects the Tigers to shoot 44.4% from three every night, but this game shows that they are at least capable of shooting better than their underwhelming season percentage.
Clemson pounded Pitt 39-22 on the boards, which included 14 offensive rebounds (5 by Djitte). The Tigers also had an impressive 15 assists on 24 made field goals, including four apiece from Rod Hall and Roper.
Clemson has another nothing-to-lose road game on Tuesday when it travels to Virginia to take on the second-ranked Cavaliers - one of just two remaining undefeated teams in college basketball. It's tough to forecast a win for the Tigers, but if they can keep it relatively close with another top-5 team, it would certainly give them some confidence heading into a winnable home matchup with Syracuse on Saturday.