Clemson vs South Carolina
Game Time: 6 PM EST (Moved from 8 PM)
Channel: ACC Network
Venue: Littlejohn Coliseum (God’s Country, South Carolina)
The Tigers come into the game on the heels of an encouraging 89-76 win over the Miami (of Ohio) Redhawks. This is the Tigers last tune up before things get hot and heavy with the ACC schedule (not sure who Brad offended to draw Virginia, Duke, and Virginia (again) to start the full ACC slate, but he must have been important).
The formula for success this season remains unchanged. Hit 3’s, keep PJ Hall out of foul trouble, don’t turn the ball over at an obscene clip....prosper. Against Miami (Ohio), the Tigers shot 13/24 from 3 (54%), Hall only collected 2 fouls, and turnovers were limited to 9. Subsequently, Clemson won the game.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter who scores in this Clemson back court. Pretty much every guy in the rotation can put it in the bucket. It would be nice to have some consistency, but Clemson winning this year probably means Alex Hemenway going for 17 one night and Nick Honor going for 7, and then Nick Honor going for 17 and Hemenway going for 7 the next time out. It’s all about hitting shots, and despite their penchant for forgetting how to shoot for extended stretches of game time, when someone gets hot, they’ve done a nice job of unselfishly feeding the hot hand.
Despite South Carolina being without a couple key contributors (and 4 mystery players to be named later), Clemson must show up and play their game in order to win.
I was planning on doing an in-depth stats breakdown of the Gamecocks. Then I wasn’t planning on writing a preview, because it looked like the game was going to be canceled. Now I’m stuck shrugging my shoulders because I have no idea who is going to play.
Starting power forward AJ Wilson is out after banging up his knee against...Allen University (which is apparently a team you can play in basketball?). Guard Jermaine Couisnard looks to be out of action again after spraining his ankle against Georgetown. Four other mystery players (at least) will also be missing from the contest with Covid related issues.
The one possible bright spot for South Carolina is the depth of their roster. They have an absurd 11 players averaging over double digit minutes so far this season. They tend to spread their scoring out, with James Couisnard (out) leading the way with 12.1 but 6 players are averaging 8 points or more for the 8-2 Gamecocks. They’ve needed a little bit from everyone this year, and they’ll need that again tonight to have any chance of knocking off the Tigers.
Clemson Wins If ...
They play their game, keep P.J. on the court, don’t turn the ball over and hit shots. I mentioned it above, but it’s a simple formula for the Tigers this year. Clemson wants to play fast in transition, shoot a bunch of 3s and work PJ Hall in the half court. They are shooting 43% from behind the arc this year, good for 2nd in the nation at the moment, and 57% effective field goal percentage, good for 8th overall. When Clemson gets a shot up, it tends to go in the basket.
When things have gone sideways this season, the Tigers have either turned the ball over (20 vs West Virginia, 18 vs Miami), forgotten how to shoot (4-18 from 3 vs Rutgers) or PJ Hall has run out of gas (St. Bonaventure). This team can beat anyone with their shooting, but because they rely on the outside shot to an extreme, they can also lose to anyone on a bad shooting night, including an undermanned Gamecock squad.
South Carolina Wins If...
They attack PJ Hall on the defensive end of the court from the opening whistle, get him on the bench and then beat the Tigers up inside. On their best day, they’re not going to hang with Clemson in a shooting contest. They’ll want to slow this thing down, ugly it up, and hope Clemson helps them out (which they totally might) by turning the ball over.
They’ll want to keep this game in the 60s and turn it into a referendum on toughness, defense and rebounding. This is the sort of team that Clemson can struggle with because of their ability to defend in the paint and stay home on shooters. Tonight, however, they’re going to need some help from Clemson to return to the gaping hell maw with a victory.
South Carolina will play hard and keep it tight early (depending on who is available), but will run out of gas midway through the 2nd half. I feel like this will be one of those games where it’s close, and then, suddenly, it’s not.
Clemson 83 - South Carolina 71
Clemson 74 - South Carolina 66