WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Sometimes giving a supreme effort isn't enough. Even in
the best of circumstances, playing hard for 40 minutes usually can't overcome
a talent deficiency.
Welcome to Larry Shyatt's personal hell.
Though the Tigers are visibly making strides — albeit small ones — in the
right direction, Shyatt's team still doesn't have enough weapons to
consistently contend with the upper echelon of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Witness Sunday's 71-63 loss at Wake Forest.
The Tigers gave perhaps their best effort of the season, pushing the No. 10
Demon Deacons to the limit before running out of gas at the end. Wake, which
at one stage of the second half led by 15, found themselves reeling after a
late flurry by Will Solomon and a 3-pointer by Dwon Clifton had the Tigers
within 66-61 with 2:33 remaining.
Looking into the eyes of the Deacons' players as Clemson rallied, it was easy
to read their thoughts. Wake Forest kept waiting for the Tigers to crumble
under the pressure, much as they had done at Duke and North Carolina in
previous ACC road games.
When Clemson didn't, the Deacons found themselves in the precarious position
of trying not to come from ahead to lose.
But in the end, Clemson simply couldn't muster enough offense. Solomon
finished with a game-high 30, and almost single-handedly shot Clemson back
into contention inside the final six minutes.
But beyond that it was frighteningly like 1999-2000 all over again. Edward
Scott was the only other Tiger to reach double figures, finishing with 10
points despite 3-of-8 shooting and five turnovers. Tony Stockman, who had
eight in the first half, finished with the same number.
Clifton's 3-pointer, though huge in timing, was his only basket.
Adam Allenspach, the 7-foot-1 senior center, was in street clothes for the
second time in three games as he continues to struggle with a bad back. And
Clemson's other big men — Ray Henderson, Chris Hobbs and, off the bench,
Tomas Nagys and Dustin Braddick — combined for just 12 points in 80 minutes
Therein lies the biggest challenge facing the Tigers. Until the post players
begin to carry a significantly higher portion of the scoring load, Solomon is
going to be hounded as he was a year ago while freshmen Stockman and Clifton
continue to experience growing pains.
But when your "bigs," as Shyatt calls them, are below average size by ACC
standards, a team like Clemson goes into every game trying working at a
No one will ever accuse Shyatt's Tigers of quitting. They play hard start to
finish, they dive after loose balls, they fight, scratch and claw for every
point and rebound.
And help is on the horizon. Shyatt's incoming recruiting class, ranked 11th
nationally, brings with it 6-9 and 6-10 help in the post.
But given the nature of the business end of college basketball, not to
mention a rumored itchy trigger finger by Clemson's administration, one is
safe in assuming the future of Clemson basketball had better arrive in a
Otherwise, Shyatt will be another addition to the trash heap of former
Clemson basketball coaches.
And that truly would be a shame.