If there was a stat category for heart, Sidy Djitte would be a First Team All-American, easy. Djitte was instrumental on Wednesday night as the Clemson Tigers (4-2) managed to hang on in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge matchup against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-3) by a score of 60-58. Djitte may have only put 6 points on the board for the night, but grabbed 9 rebounds (5 offensive) in which Clemson scored on 4 of those possessions. To put into perspective the importance of Djitte, Djitte missed 5 minutes of game time due to foul trouble, and in that time, Clemson was outscored 19-7, including the crucial final 2 minutes.
Jaron Blossomgame was the teams leading scorer with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting and was the only player in double figures for the Tigers this evening. We got what we expected from Nebraska, and that was that their scoring came from Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr. Watson had a game high 20 points and rebounded from a 1-for-11 shooting performance against Virginia Tech. Webster was the spark for the Huskers, but was absent for a majority of the game as he scored only 3 points in the final 30 minutes of the contest.
Clemson had the opportunity to grab the lead and momentum early thanks to 5 turnovers in the first 5 minutes of the game by the Huskers, but poor shooting and a lack of movement in the offense led to a wasted opportunity for Clemson as they opened the game shooting only 2-of-10. The turning point in the first half occurred with about 16 minutes remaining when Sidy Djitte picked up his first foul. Coach Brownell quickly lifted Djitte for Legend Robertin. Nebraska used this opportunity with Djitte on the bench to spark a 14-4 run thanks to the penetration of Tai Webster. Webster scored 9 points in the first 10 minutes of the contest to give Nebraska the 9-point lead. Clemson would hold Webster scoreless for the remainder of the half, but couldn’t put the ball in the basket themselves. Clemson would go over 7 minutes of game time without a field goal while turning the ball over an inexcusable 12 times to only 3 assists in the first half. Nebraska led the Tigers 14-2 in points off turnovers, but Clemson managed to hang in the game thanks to Gabe DeVoe, who would hit a three pointer and 2-free throws to keep Clemson in the game as the Tigers headed to the locker room down by a score of 31-27, in a game that shouldn’t have been that close with the Tigers shooting only 32% from the field with a majority of their points over the final 10 minutes coming from the foul line. (Clemson was 9-of-10 from the foul line at the half)
I’m unsure as to what went on in the Clemson locker room during halftime, but Clemson came out in the 2nd half and brought their offense with them. The guards finally started knocking down 3-point shots as Avry Holmes and Donte Grantham hit their first from behind the arc to start the 2nd half. The only issue is that Nebraska also managed to bring their offense out of the locker room, starting the half 6-of-6 from the field, including a wild 3-poiner from Glynn Webster Jr as the shot clock expired. Nebraska did manage to let Clemson back into the game with turnovers. The Huskers turned the ball on 4 consecutive possessions, the later a charge taken from Robertin which lead to a Jaron Blossomgame layup which game the Tigers their first lead since they led 5-4 with the score at 45-44. Clemson would stretch the lead to 6 before complacency on the defensive boards would let Nebraska back in. After Nebraska grabbed their 7th offensive rebound in just 3 possessions, a pair of free throws by Ed Morrow cut the Tiger lead to 1 with just over 5 minutes remaining. With a 4-points lead and just over 2 minutes remaining, Sidy Djitte picked up his 5th foul of the evening and Clemson countered with their small lineup. Nebraska countered with a quick 4-0 run to tie the game. After Donte Grantham made 1-of-2 free throws to give Clemson the 1 point lead, Nebraska would take the ball down the court with a chance to win. After a hectic possession, Anton Gill dragged his pivot foot and Nebraska would send Avry Holmes to the line. Holmes would make 1-of-2 and Tai Webster would miss the game tying floater to give Clemson the 60-58 win at Littlejohn Coliseum and clinch the Victory for the ACC in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge for the first time in 7 years.
While the win may be nice, this game has shown that Clemson has a lot of work to do. With 17 turnovers and only 7 assists, the Clemson guards continue to be sloppy with the basketball. When asked post-game about the turnover problems, Coach Brad Brownell noted that he felt that the team was too amped up and excited to play. Clemson will have to fix their turnover woes if they look to lock up more out-of-conference wins. Another concern is the underperformance of Donte Grantham. I won’t mince words with you because I know you are intelligent readers, but even as Clemson’s 2nd leading scorer with 9-points, Grantham played very poorly with 3 turnovers, all in key situations and continues to be absent for large portions of the game. Clemson will return to action on December 5th at home against the winless Coppin State Eagles. Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for more Clemson Basketball coverage.