Commentary: Ouch! Tigers Take One on the Chin


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Ouch.


What else do you say after a spanking?


What other words could explain a 41-9 halftime deficit, which is exactly
where Clemson found itself Wednesday night against Wake Forest?
Down 32. Stuck in single digits. At home.


Three days after probably the biggest victory in school history.
Dave Odom, the Demon Deacons' head coach and resident Pa Kettle look-alike,
said he'd never seen a first half like the one witnessed at Littlejohn
Coliseum.


At least not in the Atlantic Coast Conference.


"I might have when I was playing boys' club ball or something," said Odom.
"This is the ultimate aberration. You could see it in everybody's eyes that
is wasn't going to happen...for Clemson."


The numbers sure to draw immediate attention are the blatantly obvious:
Clemson shot just 3-of-22 (13.6 percent) from the field and committed 13
turnovers in the half.


Yet Odom threw out a couple of impressive numbers of his own. Five, as in
the number of steals Broderick Hicks had in nine minutes of play; and three,
as in the number of shots Will Solomon took in the half.


The job of stuffing Solomon, the ACC's leading scorer, fell to 6-foot-6
sophomore Josh Howard. Quicker than Solomon, not to mention five inches
taller and with a wingspan seemingly the size of Lake Hartwell, Howard
played the Clemson junior with the most tenacity this side of Keith Adams.
Solomon finished the game with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting. After scoring
in double digits in 52 consecutive games, Solomon has now been held to less
than 10 points in two of his last three.


There also was a bit of Murphy's Law involved. You don't trail 11-0, 26-2,
32-4 and 37-7 without some unexplained happenings. There was the occasional
odd bounce, or the pass that sailed behind, over or past it's intended mark.
And there were occasions of a Clemson player dribbling the ball out of
bounds off his foot.


The carnage also took its toll on the officiating triumvirate of Ted
Valentine, Larry Rose and Duke Edsall. The stripes spent a good deal of the
first half playing "Who Can Irritate Larry Shyatt Most."


Rose won, finally hitting the flustered coach with a technical foul at the
10:29 mark. The infraction didn't stop Shyatt, who stayed hot for a nice,
long stretch, emphatically making his point to first one official, then the
other, while most of the 8,000 in attendance wildly cheered and chanted
"Lar-ry, Lar-ry."


"I was capable of being thrown out tonight," Shyatt said afterwards. "But it
wasn't the right thing to do. I needed to be here to go through the rest of
it with the team instead of upstairs listening to it. But it would have been
easy to get thrown out. For a while, part of me would have preferred it."


Instead he stayed and coached, perhaps accepting that Wednesday was just one
of those nights but still searching for a way to get better.


And while the 92-60 defeat stings a little more considering just 72 hours
earlier the Tigers had toppled No. 1 North Carolina, Shyatt knows the master
plan is still in motion and better, more consistent days lie in the
not-so-distant future.


In the immediate future lies Georgia Tech, which suffered a 44-point beating
of its own Wednesday at the hands of Duke.


Two teams, two bad moods, one basketball court.


Hotlanta could take on a whole new meaning.

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