“There can only be one.”
Unlike the convoluted rules in the plot of the 1986 cult movie classic “Highlander,” there was nothing convoluted in the Tigers 2 round knockout of the visiting Highlanders from Radford.
The Tigers made impressively light work of Radford by the final of 93-58 on Friday night in Littlejohn. Say what you want about beating mid-majors, but Radford has a history of being one of those pesky teams that stubbornly won’t go away. And, in some cases, it’s not out of the ordinary for Radford to steal some big games (see West Virginia literally 9 days ago). Radford has played a pretty steady schedule and gave UNC some fits in Game 1 before the Heels pulled away. They consistently match up well with teams on their conference level and have only trailed once before tonight at half (the aforementioned Heels were in a 5 point dog fight at the half). So, naturally, I had my “letdown alert” antennas up.
I could not have been more wrong.
It took a couple minutes early for the Tigers to heat up, but heat up they did. PJ Hall turned in a subpar performance only turning in a mere 17 points (I say that clearly tongue in cheek). PJ got some much needed rest tonight but was one of the most dominant players when he was on the court. The most prolific scorer this evening was Mr. Joe Girard who turned in 24 points including going 8-11 from the field and 4-7 from 3. When Hall and Girard are on, your team is already behind the 8 ball.
But the man of the match (for me) goes to Chase Hunter. He’s been off to a bit of a slower start than even he would like to admit, so seeing him drop 16 was a huge boost and will hopefully continue in to conference play. RJ Godfrey continues to grow as a solid understudy to PJ Hall turning in a convincing 10 point performance. Ian Schieffelin continues to dominate rebounding with the fervor of a rabid animal with 13 total rebounds on the night.
Clemson now finishes the non-conference portion of the season at 11-1 (1-0 ACC), and looking at the wins, it’s still one of, if not the, most impressive starts to the season in Clemson basketball history. But in reflecting back on the 2022-2023 season, the bigger stat that stands out is “no Quad 4 losses”. Loses to bad South Carolina and Loyola teams ultimately played a major part in keeping the Tigers out last year. There is no such problem this season.
But those 12 games were merely the appetizers. The meat of the schedule is on the horizon, and this meal ain’t tapas.
Next Wednesday the Tigers will face their biggest test since the loss at Memphis. A date in the Watsco Center with the Miami Hurricanes beckons, with a home visit from the mighty UNC Tar Heels coming just days later.
Clemson has looked more than impressive over the last 2 months. But if the Tigers are able to string together some bigger wins in the early portion of ACC play, well, that would be (I’m afraid to say this) special.
Let’s see how this plays out.
Also, Happy New Year and joyous Gator bowl celebrating to you and yours in 2024 from the folks here at Shakin’ the Southland.