Avery Johnson can flat out coach
All the proof you need for that statement was found in his post-game interview where he discussed the different game-planning strategies that Alabama had such as improving in offensive rebounding and shutting down Clemson's best player, Jaron Blossomgame. The Crimson Tide had 21 offensive rebounds in the game, the same number of defensive rebounds that Clemson had. Jaron Blossomgame averages 17 points a game, and Bama held him to just 8 points double-teaming in the post and taking away air space for easy shots all throughout the game. Avery Johnson is the same guy who was a PG on the championship team for the Spurs in 1999 and the same coach who took the Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2006. Alabama hit a home run on the hiring of Johnson, and he has them playing extremely well. They've now beaten Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Clemson on the year. Don't be surprised to see them playing in the NCAA Tournament this year.
Clemson's rebounding was...
Many words could be filled in here... Bama out-rebounded Clemson 44-30. Suffice it to say, it was as bad as I've ever seen a Brownell-coached team get out-rebounded. To have the same number of defensive rebounds as the opponent's offensive rebounds is awful. Bama may have had a minor size advantage, but it was not anything major. Rebounding usually comes down to plain effort and mental toughness which were two things Clemson was distinctly missing throughout the game till the final 10 minutes. The rebounding stats were the most disappointing about the game because that simply comes down to a lack of physical and mental toughness. I hope we don't continue to see major problems here throughout the year.
A tale of two halves on defense
Clemson's first half three-point shooting defense was a disaster. Giving up open look after open look to Bama shooters allowed Bama to shoot 6-12 from 3 in the first half. I understand when teams are hot from three you're handicapped as to how much you can do, but if they're hot and getting wide open looks then you have to put the clamps on take away their air space. Clemson didn't do a good job of that in the first half. Transition defense and defensive rotations were also terrible in the first half. Alabama's Senior guard Retin Obasohan was putting on a scoring clinic against Clemson defenders. He finished with 23 points on 9-16 shooting.You have to think Clemson got an earful from Brownell at halftime about that because the second half was a completely different story.
Clemson held Alabama to 27% shooting in the second half and picked up the intensity dramatically. The problems of defense and rebounding in this game were not due to a lack of talent and are definitely fixable. I would think we are going to see some major improvements in rebounding and complete games on defense in upcoming games.
Landry Nnoko showed up
The Clemson big-man who has had a disappointing run of it last year and so far this year finally started showing off some of that potential that we thought was there a couple years ago. Sidy Djitte actually got the start in the game, but Nnoko came off the bench and played inspired ball leading Clemson with 15 points, grabbing 6 boards, and blocking 4 shots. If Clemson can begin to get some solid production from Nnoko offensively, that will take some of the major pressure that is placed on Blossomgame right now. Clemson is still looking for a consistent contributor to be the threat as the number two scorer and offensive option. Roper and Grantham have both shown flashes, but not consistency. In Nnoko's Senior year could he carry that torch after the break-through game he just had? I have my doubts, but I couldn't think of a better scenario for the season.
A game you have to win
As bad as Clemson played for the majority of the game, they were in a fantastic position to win the game. Clemson held Alabama to 2 field goals in the final 10 minutes of the game. They had the ball and the lead in the last minute, but that last Alabama field goal turned out to be the decider and came off a lazy in-bounds pass to Grantham that was stolen and taken back for an easy layup. Clemson's Avry Holmes couldn't capitalize on the game-winner and the Tigers fell 51-50. A home game against a quality opponent where you have the lead and the ball in the last minute is a game you simply have to win. Unfortunately the Tiger basketball team continued what was a disappointing weekend for Clemson fans. Fortunately, Clemson has a key opportunity to get some momentum back if they can end South Carolina's undefeated season on Friday night, but they first need to take care of business in their next game which is at home against Presbyterian College tomorrow night at 7 p.m.