The Tigers traveled north to Toronto, Canada for a big neutral site contest against the TCU Horned Frogs. Following Clemson’s Wednesday night home win over previously undefeated South Carolina, they entered at 8-0 and no. 26 in the KenPom rankings. TCU was similarly 7-0 and no. 35 in the rankings. KenPom called the game toss-up giving Clemson a 54% chance to win.
TCU likes to play at a breakneck pace (18th fastest) and were successful at speeding Clemson up early in the game. Clemson’s guards struggled to handle TCU’s pressure defense and gave up bad turnovers that turned into points. TCU had 7 steals in the first 11 minutes of the game. Despite that, they held just a four-point lead at 21-17 with 9 minutes to play in the first half.
At that point in the game, Clemson’s guards got more comfortable and stopped turning over the ball over. Good defense and rebounding by the Horned Frogs kept it a tight game, but Clemson was beginning to look like the superior team and went into halftime up 36-35.
Clemson point guard, Chase Hunter, struggled throughout the first half and his struggles continued into the second. The veteran star has been slumping as of late going 5-20 in the two previous games. He was scoreless at halftime and it seemed like he would need to turn it on for Clemson to take control of the game. He never did, finishing 0-7 with 0 points, but Clemson showed off its depth and took control anyway.
The Tigers led 48-42 when Joe Girard got hot. He knocked down a 3-pointer while being fouled and converted the four-point play. After a few empty possessions, Girard showed off his ability to score around the basket with a lay-up. 19 seconds later, he drilled another 3-pointer for a personal 9-0 run. That gave Clemson a 15-point lead at 57-42 from which TCU would never recover.
The Horned Frogs didn’t fold though. To their credit, they cut the lead to six with 9 minutes left to play. That’s when the Coach Brownell’s classic defense showed up and curtailed any real offensive threat TCU had to offer. The Horned Frogs made only two field goals in the final 10 minutes of the game. If not for the referees’ extremely liberal use of the whistle, the game could have turned into a blowout. Nevertheless, Clemson remained in control en route to a resume-building 74-66 victory.
PF Ian Schieffelin once again stood out for his relentless effort battling in the post. He finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds. He also had 5 assists. While he doesn’t post gaudy point totals, he has taken major strides since last season and is one of the team’s most critical all-around players. Despite being limited to just 24 minutes, PJ Hall had 17 points. He fouled out on a questionable call in the final seconds. Joe Girard led all players with 21 points including going 8-9 from the FT line.
Alex Hemenway and Jack Clark both missed the game with injuries. PJ Hall was limited with foul trouble and Chase Hunter’s offensive struggles continued. Despite all that, Clemson still had enough depth to pull through. It was an extremely impressive team win.
With the victory, the Tigers are now perfect in two countries and 9-0 overall. The last time Clemson was 9-0, was in the 2007-08 season under Coach Oliver Purnell. That team was a 5-seed in the NCAA tournament (lost to 12-seed Villanova). This year’s squad has done it against a much more impressive schedule, already accumulating four wins against KenPom top teams: at Alabama, at Pittsburgh, vs. South Carolina, and vs. TCU.
Time will tell, but this very well may one of the better teams in school history. Don’t miss them next Saturday when they go on the road to face a top 50 Memphis team. Kudos to Clemson for challenging themselves with such a tough schedule and more importantly for acing every test thus far.