Getting healthy: Tigers preparing for final stretch


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Clemson plays just one team with a winning league record in the next six games (Photo by Dawson Powers, USAT)
Clemson plays just one team with a winning league record in the next six games (Photo by Dawson Powers, USAT)

The Clemson basketball team has navigated two-thirds of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule, and with the final third of the schedule on the horizon, the beat-up Tigers are taking a few days to get healthy.

Following a home loss to Notre Dame Monday night, the Tigers are 14-10 overall and 7-5 in the ACC. The game against Notre Dame was doubly important – the Tigers not only could have added to their NCAA Tournament resume, but last week’s news out of Louisville means some team will benefit from a double-bye in the ACC Tournament.

The Cardinals gave themselves a postseason ban and won’t participate in next month’s league tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Louisville would have likely been a top four seed, and the Irish entered Monday’s matchup with the same record as Clemson in league play – 7-4. Now the Tigers sit in the middle of the standings with Miami (8-3), Notre Dame (8-4), Duke (7-4), Pittsburgh (6-5), Syracuse (6-5) and Florida St. (6-5).

Clemson has beaten Miami, Duke, Pitt and Syracuse head-to-head and split with Florida St.

The good news is that Clemson plays the next four games against teams with a combined league record of 4-28, and it starts with Saturday’s home game against 2-8 Georgia Tech, the first of two games against the Yellow Jackets in a ten-day span. The Tigers also face 2-9 N.C. State and 0-11 Boston College.

Clemson then faces a 9-3 Virginia before ending the regular season against Boston College.

For now, however, the Tigers will try to get healthy for the stretch run.

“We need to take a couple of days and rest and get a couple of guys healthy. We have a couple of guys that aren't feeling great with some sickness,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “And Avry's (Holmes) groin is really bothering him. We have to get our minds right again, also.”

The Tigers have dropped three out of four games after a 6-2 league start.

“We are beat up, we are tired, and we are sick. We don't feel great, and we probably shouldn't feel great,” Brownell said. “We haven't played as well the couple of weeks that we played for a month. That is part of basketball at this level, and it's such a long season you are going to have to play through things. The Virginia Tech game was a rock fight, it was a tough game, and it was physical. It was possession-grinding. Tonight was more of a pick-up game the way Notre Dame plays.”

If the Tigers are to make a run at a top four seed and even the NCAA Tournament they will have to get more consistent play out of center Landry Nnoko. Nnoko scored 17 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked eight shots in the loss at Virginia Tech. Foul trouble has been an issue, however, and on Monday he had just three points while committing six turnovers.

Nnoko was frequently the target of Brownell’s ire, and Brownell said his senior post player has to learn to let the past go.

“I was encouraging him to play harder and get to the next play. Unfortunately, Landry is a guy that lets past performance stick with him,” Brownell said. “He's a great kid. Unbelievably caring person but a little bit sensitive, he cares. But when things don't go well he has to be a little bit resilient. That's something we have to get him to keep doing because it's not always going to go well. There has to come a point in the middle of the game where you change it. It won't change itself.”

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