I thought this game was over before the tip when it was announced that Aamir Simms was quarantined in his apartment with the flu. Per usual, when it comes to this Clemson team, no matter how many games I force myself to watch, I have no idea what’s going to happen.
If the Tigers didn’t punt the game away in the last 5 minutes, this would have gone down as the “Alex Hemenway Game.” Alex came out gunning, and didn’t stop until the final whistle. The fact that his home state Irish didn’t bother to offer the sharp shooter from Newburgh, Indiana didn’t seem to sit right with the Alex, and he punished Mike Brey with a 16 point performance, going 3-7 from deep.
Hemenway wasn’t the only unlikely contributor to the cause. Trey Jemison looked like a serviceable big man in Simm’s stead, contributing 7 rebounds and making Notre Dame star John Mooney work on the inside. It was by far his best game in a Clemson uniform, and something the big man from Alabama can build on going forward.
In addition to the young bucks making a splash, Tevin Mack did his best to take over the alpha dog role left vacant by the ailing Simms...to mixed results. The Alabama transfer (via Texas) put up a much needed 16 points, but did so in an inefficient manner, going 6-16 from the field, and only 2-8 from deep. You can’t fault his effort, but he couldn’t bring the Tigers home down the stretch.
The Irish, unfortunately, got a season high 18 points from Rex Pflueger, which included a 4-4 performance from deep. Mooney was his usual stud self, putting up 16 points and 11 rebounds, but it should be noted that Jemison forced the Notre Dame big man outside of the paint on a regular basis, which ended with Mooney shooting 3-8 from the outside.
In the end, the Tigers hung tough without Simms, taking a 2 point lead into halftime, and putting up a game effort before being out executed down the stretch by a veteran Notre Dame squad.
This one was a must win for the Tigers, and they didn’t win. The chances of Clemson making the big tournament are about as good as South Carolina coming into Death Valley and beating the Tigers in 2020...that is to say, infinitesimally small and requiring several major miracles working in conjunction.
There is still plenty to play for, because this young roster can benefit from a run in the NIT. That said, the NIT is getting incredibly old and even making it there is unlikely. AD Dan Radakovich has some serious decisions to make in the upcoming off-season.