The Tigers surrendered 80+ points in the three games following the first COVID pause. Coach Brownell and the Tigers clearly learned from that experience as they delivered a virtuoso defense performance that held the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to a season-low 39 points as the Tigers earned their second ACC road win by the score of 60-39.
The Tigers grabbed their first lead, 4-3, less than four minutes into the game and never surrendered it. The Deacons didn’t reach 10 points until the the 9:09 mark. From that point, Clemson closed the half on a 14-4 run and led 29-15 at the break. Wake Forest never brought the game back to within single-digits and the second half was frankly a snoozer. While lacking the excitement of the Tigers’ buzzer beater win over Georgia Tech, it was exactly what Clemson needed.
Four Tigers stood out for their great performances. Alex Hemenway led Clemson with 17 points - 15 of which came on his 5 three-pointers. Aamir Simms scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. He missed a dunk and air balled a three-pointer, but they served only to add comedy to a spectacular individual and team performance. Nick Honor added 11 points and 6 assists. He looked to be in total command of the offense. Hunter Tyson also looked sharp scoring 9 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. By rebounding-percentage, he is the Tigers best rebounder. PJ Hall was the only Tiger unavailable coming off the COVID pause.
There was reason for concern coming off this 12-day pause that caused the Notre Dame and Pittsburgh games to be postponed (and likely cancelled). The Tigers entered the game projected by Joe Lunardi to be a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament, but with four games already postponed/cancelled, they couldn’t afford bad losses down the stretch against the weakest part of their schedule. Clemson’s performance in Winston-Salem provides reason for optimism that they can take care of business in their remaining games against Miami, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. The Tigers are 8-5 in the ACC and in 5th place in the ACC. Despite two COVID pauses and a spate of poor play after the first one, Clemson is well positioned to earn favorable seeding in the ACC and NCAA tournament. The postseason could be fun for Clemson basketball.