Clemson put itself in position to notch an important road win against Florida State on Tuesday night, but a poor second-half performance allowed the Seminoles to overtake the Tigers for a 77-68 win.
In need of a quality win to tack on to a middling resume, Clemson played perhaps its best offensive half of the season and seemed poised to overcome an uncharacteristic barrage of 3-pointers from a Florida State team not known for its shooting prowess. Aamir Simms’ buzzer-beating tip-in gave him 15 points and the Tigers a 6-point lead heading into the break.
The Tigers scored on their opening possession of the second half to stretch the lead to 8 and still led 55-50 with 11 minutes remaining in the game, but the Seminoles put together a 13-0 run over the next four minutes to change the course of the game, and Clemson could never get closer than three points the rest of the way.
Simms led the Tigers with 18 points, but he scored just 3 in the second half — indicative of the team’s offensive struggles in a second half where they scored just 27.
Eli Thomas was excellent for Clemson, posting 17 points on just 9 shots including 5-5 from the free-throw line. His 11 rebounds gave him his fifth double-double of the season.
The Tigers just couldn’t get enough production from other places, with starting guards Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed combining for just 19 points on 23 shots and the five remaining participants totaling just 14 points.
Conversely, while no Florida State starter scored in double figures, the Seminoles got 17 and 16 points, respectively, from reserve players Mfiondu Kabengele and David Nichols.
Despite shooting 31 percent from 3-point range on the season, Florida State made 10 of 22 attempts from beyond the arc. Nichols went 4 for 5 after entering the game making 2 of his last 15.
Clemson faces another difficult road test Saturday afternoon at NC State.
- This may be the worst combined effort by Reed and Mitchell I can remember. Clemson wasted a game where it got 35 points from Thomas and Simms because its fifth-year guards were out of sorts the entire game. Mitchell played his best game of the season against Georgia Tech and may have followed it up with his worst. He is an enigma right now, and that’s something you can’t afford to have from a veteran point guard. Mitchell taking 12 shots in a game is not a recipe for success, period. I don’t know what his deal is, but Clemson is going nowhere without his cooperation.
- Eli Thomas was great in this game and has been basically all season. He may be the best post player in the ACC right now. Clemson has to find a way to get him the ball as much as possible. He will be critical against NC State, a game in which the Tigers could desperately use a win.
- We knew Clemson’s early ACC schedule was daunting and that a poor record coming out of the gate was very possible. But at some point you’re going to have to start winning games if you have postseason aspirations, and stealing a game like this one when you played so well in the opening half would have helped ease concerns. If the Tigers can win at NC State on Saturday, 2-4 wouldn’t be the worst thing ever considering there are winnable games (in theory) around the corner. 1-5, while not inescapable, just seems an extremely difficult hole to crawl out of. Hopefully Clemson can have an inspired performance for an entire game rather than just one half on Saturday. It could go a long way toward a reversal of fortunes.