Clemson got off to a sluggish start, looking like a team sitting on their laurels after knocking off "New York's College Team." (No, not Notre Dame. No, not Penn State either. Darn it, you know who I mean!) It may have been FSU's size that was the bigger problem though. Blossomgame struggled to do anything inside against the Seminole's huge front line which features three seven-footers and two others with a height advantage over Blossomgame. They held him to just one point in the first half.
Clemson's offense was especially sluggish early. They shot just 28.6% from two in the first half, clearly bothered by FSU's size. They started the game with a 3:21 minute scoreless streak. Later in the half, they'd go 9:32 minutes without a field goal.
Interestingly, it was Djitte who fueled a comeback to bring them back to life before halftime. After leaving the game injured earlier in the half, the center position was left to Josh Smith, as Nnoko was once again in foul trouble (played 24 minutes). Although Josh Smith filled in admirably, particularly on defense and on the glass, Clemson got it going when Djitte re-entered the game after getting checked out by the medical staff. Djitte made a layup off a nice Rod Hall pass. Moments later, he'd chip another one in off a Gabe DeVoe assist during probably DeVoe's best stretch of basketball this season. He'd then make four straight free throws (after missing his first two) to bring Clemson within striking distance (6 points) at the intermission.
Clemson came out with great energy in the second half and almost immediately trimmed the lead to 2 points, but Florida State would respond and quickly build the lead back to double-digits. Clemson would make a few runs at them in the second half. With eight minutes remaining, Grantham hit a beautiful turn around three. After an FSU basket, a Clemson three-pointer cut it to just a three points, but Florida State would respond again and push it back to double-digits.
Blossomgame continued to struggle in the second half often forcing shots. He was only 1-4 from three with his one make coming on an extremely fortunate bank. He finished 3-10 overall with 10 points and 8 rebounds, not terrible for an off night. Roper also played a big part in the action, but seemed equally bothered by FSU's size getting blocked seemingly 10 times! He finished 1-7 in 16 minutes of play.
In the waning minutes of the game, Clemson did well enough to earn multiple trips to the line, but continuously failed to convert. At one point, Nnoko missed two free throws, but Clemson got the offensive rebound. Harrison got to the line just seconds later and missed both of his free throws as well.
In the final two minutes, Clemson made one last run when they flipped the switch on the full court defense. The press led directly to an 8-0 run by Clemson. With 58 seconds remaining, Clemson had pulled it within two points. Brownell then curiously elected to call off the press and settle in the halfcourt defense. The Tigers got the stop with less than 30 seconds left and immediately Rod Hall was fouled on the rebound. Once again, Clemson missed a big free throw, making just one of two and failing to tie the game. Clemson would foul on the next possession and Bookert would hit one of two free throws to make it a 57-55 FSU lead. Harrison then air balled what would have been the game winning three, and FSU sealed the win with a transition layup.
This is the third year in a row Clemson lost at home to Florida State. Sure, matching up with their bigs was a problem, but no more so than it was for teams like Northeastern, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse - all teams that beat the Seminoles. This was not just a case of Clemson coming out flat after a big win. Clemson was outplayed and outcoached and deserved to lose. The Tigers were 16-31 from the FT stripe including five misses combined from Hall, Grantham, and DeVoe. It wasn't simply big guys missing free throws, it was a team fail. Brownell's defense never adjusted to cuts along the baseline and routinely gave up alley-oops and lay-ups en route to 63.6 shooting from two by the Seminoles. Landry Nnoko make one field goal in the entire game. He was outmatched down low and outplayed by Sidy Djitte.
Clemson shot better from three and committed fewer turnovers. A late rally even closed the rebounding gap, but too many easy buckets and missed free throws cost Clemson the game. Tonight's game was Clemson's second most probable win remaining on the schedule (only VT was listed as a more likely remaining victory).
Now, the Tigers get the rest of the week to regroup before facing a Wake Forest team playing very good basketball under new coach Danny Manning this Saturday. A loss then, would waste both the Pitt and Syracuse upset wins. Jay Ingles described our team's inconsistent play best when he said:
"It's pretty clear at this point that this season is simply going to be a roller-coaster ride. Clemson has played so well at times, yet so poorly at others, that it's basically impossible to predict how this team will perform in a given game."