Commentary: Clemson Sleepwalks Past the Bulldogs, 84-76

by - Correspondent -

LITTLEJOHN MAUSOLEUM - Here's one I'll bet you've never heard before. I went to a basketball game Saturday and a nap broke out.

You knew early on Clemson's 84-76 win over The Citadel had the makings of a real snooze-fest. The weather alone, perfect for staying inside with your favorite legal beverage and watching post-Thanksgiving college football, should have been enough of an indicator.

In fact, that's what most fans apparently decided to do. Or if not watch football, maybe clean out those pesky cupboards or strip the waxing off wood flooring.

Anything, it seemed, other than watch Clemson sleepwalk past the Bulldogs.

How bad was it?

There were so few fans in Littlejohn Saturday that any cheering that may have been done was drowned out by the sound of laptop keyboards being burned up on press row. Apparently the writers were hoping this one would be called at halftime due to lack of interest.

It was so bad that the Tiger mascot nearly had enough towels to toss to everyone in attendance. There were only four Larry's Loonies present, not nearly enough for a heckling quorum.

Tiger Rag had all the appeal of a wet dishtowel. There were even backup cheerleaders, for goodness sake. Cheerleaders who apparently haven't warranted full uniforms as of yet, as their shorts and T-shirts seemed to attest.

So it should have come as no surprise, then, that given the atmosphere - coupled with last Tuesday's emotional one-point loss to No. 10 Seton Hall - the Tigers had a hard time getting the engine revving Saturday.

Atmosphere can mean everything in college basketball, and for much of Saturday Littlejohn Coliseum was about as exciting as a segment about brass napkin rings on BBC America's "Antique Roadshow' program.

Said one writer during a particularly painful juncture of the game: "I don't know how that guy can shoot free throws with all those people yawning.'

Fortunately for Clemson, the slumber ended with about 14:00 left in the game.

Then again, the Tigers were just as lucky to be playing The Citadel. Because were it not for an overall talent deficiency, the Bulldogs might have walked away with a victory.

For most of the afternoon, they appeared to be the only people happy to be in the building.

The Citadel made up for its comparative lack of size and speed by employing some old-time basketball ethics - hustle. The Bulldogs decimated Clemson on the boards in the first half, outrebounding the Tigers 33-16. That total included a ridiculous 15-0 - that's zero, boys and girls - on the offensive boards.

The final margin was 62-41 overall, and 30-8 on the offensive end.

Fortunately Clemson received quality minutes from freshmen Tony Stockman and Chris Hobbs, especially down the stretch. The Tigers also defended better as the second half wore on, and hit the important free throws at the big moments while The Citadel was hitting just seven of its final 17 attempts from the charity stripe.

Still, while Shyatt wouldn't call it a "lesson' in the postgame press conference, you have to believe he pointed out The Citadel's attack mentality from start to finish.

And while it's true the Tigers are a much improved basketball team, at least from a talent standpoint, by no means is the program to a point where supposedly inferior foes will just roll over once the band begins to play.

Quite the contrary.

Clemson is one ACC school lower-echelon teams believe they have a chance of beating if the stars align correctly.

Another effort like Saturday and they may be right.

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