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Tip Drill: Clemson Hangs on, Beats NC State

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Clemson came into PNC Arena like a hurricane and knocked the Wolfpack on their heels early. A 25-2 run gave Clemson a 20 point halftime lead. The Tigers nearly blew it, but hung on for another dramatic upset win.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

1/28/2015 vs. NC State

Result: W 68-57
CU Leading Scorer: Jordan Roper (18)
Key Stat: Clemson was outscored 11-26 in the first 10 minutes of the second half

  • Clemson got off to a great start, aided by some of the best SG play they've had all year. Roper got his second straight start, and had one of the best games in his career. Roper scored or assisted on Clemson's first 6 points. Harrison played much better, didn't settle, and was a great contributor off the bench with 8 points and 7 rebounds.

  • Clemson's defense was creating turnovers early, which allowed them to get out in transition and score easy buckets. Our defense has been good at forcing opponents into bad shots, but forcing turnovers isn't something they have excelled at. In fact, Clemson's defense was outside of the top 300 at defensive TO% coming into the game. That turnaround was a huge factor.

  • Clemson did everything they could to play inside-out basketball. They worked it to Nnoko early. When he got in foul trouble, they continued the same with Djitte and Smith. Aside from one sloppy turnover, Josh Smith played better than usual offensively. He finished with 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 16 minutes. Djitte also had probably the prettiest looking bucket of his career when he faced up and then gave the defender a spin move to get the lay in.

  • Clemson's lead peaked at 23 and was 20 at halftime.

  • As we've talked about before, Clemson is atrocious in the "third quarter." They were outscored by 15 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, cutting a 20 point lead to 5. At that point, a loss felt inevitable. The table below shows Clemson's performance in the "third quarter" of each of the last seven games. What is Brownell doing at halftime?

  • It wasn't all Brownell's fault to be sure. NC State had two things going in their favor. They broke into a full court defense and Trevor Lacy got going. Lacy only scored 3 points in the first half, but finished with 17.

  • Down the stretch things were getting a bit dicey. The lead had dwindled to 8 before Roper hit a three-pointer at the 13:13 mark. The lead was down to 9 when Rod Hall drew a charge to get the ball back with 6:32 remaining. The lead was down to 6 shortly thereafter, but a long sequence that burned up 1:23 and ended in a Blossomgame layup put Clemson up 8 with less than four minutes to play.

  • In the end, it was the defense that pulled out the win. A 4:01 scoring drought for NC State that ended at the 2:02 mark kept Clemson ahead and a Nnoko and-one with 1:36 remaining was the dagger, extending the lead to 12 and giving Nnoko double-digits.

  • Clemson had 9 blocks, with two a piece from Grantham and Smith. The 9 blocks meant Clemson rejected over 18% of NC State's two-point shots.

  • Blossomgame only had 7 points. After scoring double-digits in 12 straight games, he's been held below that mark in three of the last five games. Fortunately, he didn't force too many bad shots and still had an Ortg of 101. He also had 7 defensive rebounds, 5 offensive rebounds, and no turnovers. 

  • This was only the fifth win for Clemson in PNC Arena. We jokingly predicted that Clemson would win this game and I will jokingly predict that we'll turn around and lose to Boston College at home. This has been a roller coaster, but I suppose we should just embrace it. For what it's worth, South Carolina lost again and is now 1-6 in SEC play. It's quite possible we could be battling them for a NIT spot late in the year, as this win keeps us very much in contention for the postseason.