Miami 67 - Clemson 64
Welp, the more things change, the more they stay the same. As y’all know, I’m a perpetual optimist when it comes to Clemson basketball, but man, that was pathetic. A Miami squad consisting of six scholarship players, on a quick turnaround after beating Pitt last night, knocked off the Tigers this afternoon in Greensboro.
Clemson had every opportunity to end this game in the first half after a red hot (8-11) start from three, but they refused to value the basketball, and allowed Miami’s Isaiah Wong to keep the Hurricanes in the game. Instead of going into the locker room with a comfortable lead against a fading Miami team, they went into the locker room up 4, and Miami kept the faith.
Water found its level from deep for the Tigers in the 2nd half, but they continued to chuck up questionable three-pointers instead of trying to get Miami’s paper thin roster in foul trouble. The turnover issues persisted for the Tigers. Wong was by far the best player on the court, shredding the Tiger defense with the ball in his hand on the way to putting up 20 points. This happened in the last matchup against Miami, but this time Kameron McGusty and Anthony Walker joined in on the scoring. McGusty contributed 14 and Walker contributed 15, and that was pretty much a wrap for the Tigers. Miami built a seemingly insurmountable 9-point lead heading into the last three minutes before falling apart themselves.
They tried desperately to give the game away late, but Clemson refused to honor their wishes. Aamir Simms picked off an errant Miami pass and threw his own errant pass to Dawes in transition. Instead of an easy layup for the lead, Dawes was forced to “save” the ball into the back court. In reality, Dawes was clearly out of bounds, but the referees missed the call and Clemson retained possession and called a timeout. The ball was rightfully Miami’s, but the officiating in transition was terrible all game long.
With the game and their ACC tournament on the line, down 1, with less than 20 seconds on the clock, Clemson went with a high ball screen involving Simms and Honor. I thought Brad was trying to force a switch up top, and get the ball to his best player. Instead, Honor turned the corner and offered up a contested 8-foot floater that clanged off the rim. Miami collected the rebound with 2 seconds remaining, and that was the ballgame.
This game rests squarely on the broad shoulders of Aamir Simms. He led the Tigers in scoring with 17, but that was based mostly on an 11 point first half. I didn’t even know he was on the floor for most of the second half. Clemson needed to get Miami’s big men in foul trouble, but instead, Simms floated around the perimeter, turned the ball over 4 (should have been 5) times and played like a 6’9, 245 pound shooting guard. That was the absolute best case scenario for the Hurricanes.
Tournament time is when your best players have to step up. Wong is Miami’s best player, and he outplayed Simms. Sometimes basketball is an easy game to understand, and this is one of those times. Simms needed to show some of the famous “Clemson GRIT,” and get to the line, but the most telling stat of the game was his 0-0 performance from the line.
I’m focusing on Aamir because he’s Clemson’s best player, and basketball is a “best player” game, but no one else covered themselves in glory either, other than Hunter Tyson. Clyde Trapp had a bit of a fluky game, and scored 10 points, 6 of which came off of 2 bad 3 point attempts that he managed to hit, but he couldn’t get to the rim, and he couldn’t stop Miami from getting to the rim. He also went 0-0 from the line and committed 4 turnovers. Al-Amir Dawes scored 6 points with a high degree of difficulty, but also played out of control at times, and added another 4 turnovers to the Clemson ledger.
Clemson played all the way into Miami’s hands. On offense, Miami needed Clemson to shoot jump shots, turn the ball over, and not challenge them in the paint. The Tigers cooperated.
On defense, Miami needed the ball in Wong’s hands, and Clemson couldn’t do anything to stop the ball from getting into Wong’s hands. Even worse, instead of Wong getting his, and the Tigers clamping down on the rest of the squad, they over helped, gave up a couple crucial 2nd half 3’s, and let McGusty and Walker get into the action, mostly because they couldn’t stop the ball from getting into the paint off the dribble. Miami wanted to turn the game into a 1 on 1 match up between their best player and Clemson’s defenders, and the Tigers let it happen.
Oh, and don’t think I’ve forgotten about Brad Brownell, because that was an absolute clunker. Instead of shortening the bench for the tournament, he continuously put weird lineups on the court at the most inopportune moments. As soon as one group gained momentum, a couple key players went to the bench, and Miami would manage to pull the game back. I understand the basic idea of trying to wear out a tired and thin Miami team, but the constant rotation of players was the only way Brad attacked the Miami depth. He didn’t demand his guards to attack off the dribble. He didn’t sent Aamir into the post. He didn’t press a team without a point guard until the last 2 minutes (which still almost won them the game). Brad was in the perfect position to dictate the terms of the game to Miami, but instead, he allowed the Tigers to play the exact game Jim Larranaga wanted them to play.
Hats of to Miami, because Clemson offered them up the game, and they took it, but make no mistake, if Clemson brings something close to their B game, this thing isn’t close.
The Tigers now await their fate for the NCAA tournament. They are comfortably in the tournament, but this loss probably sends them to the dreaded 8 seed. A win would have kept them on the 7 line, and 2 wins may have moved them up to 6. Now, if they can pull their heads out of their rear ends and win in the opening round, a matchup against a number 1 seed most likely awaits in the 2nd round.
All because they couldn’t beat a Miami team with 6 scholarship players....Pathetic.