Commentary: Solomon Getting Much Needed Help

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - It didn't take long for the smack to start running. Exactly two trips down the floor, as a matter of fact.

That's when Seton Hall's Darius Lane, following a Will Solomon missed shot, scored on the other end and immediately began jawing at Clemson's All-ACC guard. You knew then Tuesday night wouldn't be for the faint of heart.

Solomon, of course, is no amateur when it comes to talking trash. It took all of one further possession, when he pump-faked Lane into the Paratrooper's Club and drove for a layup, to remind the Seton Hall junior that Solomon, too, can breathe fire with the best of them.

In fact, the more Solomon talks, the better he seems to play. He followed up that possession with his first 3-pointer of the night, and not long after added a transition jumper to give Clemson a 14-10 lead.

Oddly, it seemed when the talk stopped, or at least slowed on both sides, so did the offensive output. Of course, part of that likely was due to Solomon sitting out the final 9:48 of the half after picking up his second foul.

By that time Clemson had missed a golden opportunity to build a sizable lead because of its poor shooting.

The Tigers had accomplished everything else coach Larry Shyatt had hoped for to that point. They played solid defense and, more importantly, rebounded well, limiting the Pirates to just one shot most every offensive possession.

But after finally putting together a mini-spurt to build a 24-15 lead, the Pirates started rolling. In seemingly less than the time it takes play Tiger Rag, Seton Hall had stormed back to tie the game and went on to build an eight-point lead, 37-29, at the half.

If you're counting, that's a 22-5 run over the final 6:06.

Suddenly it was shades of last season all over again. With Solomon on the bench, nobody was able to establish an offensive presence. Save for one Pasha Bains drive and dunk, Clemson settled for firing up quick jumpers, then chasing the Pirates down the floor in transition.

But this isn't last year.

Whereas those Tigers might have folded, this current edition found it within themselves to hang around. Though they still work far too hard for good shots, especially in the post, the youth and athleticism on the perimeter - sorely lacking a season ago - kept Clemson within striking distance.

The Tigers never trailed by more than 12 in the second half and, thanks to just enough plays by Bains, Edward Scott, Tony Stockman, Tomas Nagys and Dustin Braddick, hung around long enough to let Solomon get hot.

And when he did, so did the Tigers.

From the point Clemson trailed 64-52 (10:40) until it tied the game at 76-76 with 3:04 remaining, Solomon put the Tigers on his back and carried them into contention. The junior guard scored 16 of his game-high 31 points during that stretch of 7:36, electrifying the Littlejohn Coliseum crowd with a dazzling array of long-range jumpers and drives in amongst the trees.

And though many will focus on his charging foul at 1:12, and his turnover at :26 which led to Andre Barrett's game-winning free throw, make no mistake about it. As much as Will Solomon needs scoring help - and it appears he's going to get it - this is still his team.

Unfortunately, Clemson needs to win one of those games against a top-ranked team before anyone outside the ACC will take notice.

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