Date: Tuesday, November 15th
Channel: ACC Network Extra / ESPN+
Location: Littlejohn Coliseum - Clemson, SC
This early stage of basketball season is when the Tigers need to avoid bad losses and do just enough so that the non-conference slate doesn’t haunt them in March. Last year, they had suffered four losses before the calendar turned to the new year and fans turned their collective attention from football to basketball.
On Friday, this year’s squad took their first loss as they fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks on a last-second shot. Now they will look to rebound against USC Upstate. The Spartans should provide a soft landing spot after the painful road loss. USC Upstate is 1-1 and coming off a 84-38 shellacking at the hands of Duke.
Jordan Gainey, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard from Arizona, is the player to watch. He was second on the team in scoring last season as a freshman. He shot 49% on 141 3-point attempts last season. The Tigers can’t lose him and allow him to get hot from deep.
Beyond him, the Tigers should hold personnel advantages across the board. Freshman guard Justin Bailey is averaging 12.5 points per game and could provide some spark off the bench, however Clemson should dominant in the paint. USC Upstate isn’t an especially small team, but they don’t have the front court depth to stop PJ Hall, Tyson Hunter, and Ian Schieffelin. The Tigers should pound it down low and make the Spartans stop them. This is like Clemson running it down Syracuse’s throat again and again. They should force them to prove they can stop it before entertaining any other options. Duke outrebounded USC Upstate 52-27. That’s the kind of domination Clemson needs to show.
PJ Hall returned on Friday against the Gamecocks. We was expected to be out another two weeks and his early return was an exciting development. Unfortunately, the loss took the wind out of the sails. The Tigers need to come out and dominate against USC Upstate and continue working him into the flow while managing his minutes appropriately.
If you’re gauging Clemson, you really want a non-competitive game that is out of reach with more 10 minutes remaining. Next on the docket will be Bellarmine. They’re a Catholic University with 2,500 students located in Louisville and while they just lost to Morehead State, they already have a win over the Louisville Cardinals on the resume. After that, the Tigers host Loyola-Maryland and then travel to Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic. If they can get to 4-1 entering the Classic, they’ll be back in good shape. Winning these next three game is absolutely critical. It begins on Tuesday at 7:00pm.