Groundhog Day

by - Senior Writer -
<span style=Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports ">
Photo by John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

GREENSBORO, N.C. – A double-digit first half lead, a double-digit second half deficit, abysmal free throw shooting and a frantic comeback that falls just short. Just like any other night in Clemson basketball.

Clemson held a 10-point lead on two different occasions in the first half, saw a rash of turnovers and cold-shooting lead to an 11-point deficit, missed five clutch free throws in the final 75 seconds and saw a valiant effort fall short as Florida St. bounced the Tigers 73-69 in the first round of the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum Thursday night.

Clemson hit just 19-of-31 free throws, and missed five foul shots in the last 44 seconds of the game. With Clemson trailing 68-60 and 44 seconds left on the game clock, Florida St.’s Terrance Shannon was called for a flagrant foul on Jennings. Jennings hit just one of the two free throws to make it 68-61. On the inbounds play, Roper was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer, but he hit just one of his three shots, and Hall missed one of two with 32 seconds remaining as the missed foul shots accounted for the difference in the final score.

The teams were called for a combined 47 fouls – 24 by Clemson and 23 by FSU – leading to a ragged, stop-and-start affair that choked off any momentum either team could build, with several questionable calls affecting the second half.

Jennings said the officiating should be the main story of the game.

“I thought the referees really made it about them with the fouls,” Jennings said. “I just don’t understand. The whole year you could step in front of people and use your chest, but in the ACC Tournament, it’s fouls. I don’t understand. I don’t know how you get to the tournament and make such soft calls. I know one thing- Florida State shoots 77% as a team, so that was in their benefit to get fouled.

“Two of my fouls were me just going out to set a screen and they called me for a foul. You can’t really fight in the post [when you have four fouls] and once again that played to their advantage. They only had one post player, Turpin, with four fouls. The rest of them weren’t in foul trouble and they were able to be physical in the post. The refs let them push us up the lane and put two hands on us and stuff, but as soon as we put two hands on them or did anything of the sort it was a foul. It was very frustrating. Very, very frustrating.”

The loss marked the second straight season the Tigers – who finish the season with a record of 13-18 -have been bounced in the first round. Clemson also finished the season with seven consecutive losses, and lost 10 of its last 11. The Noles also swept the three games the teams played between each other this season.

Jordan RoperJordan Roper
Fr. Guard
#20 5-11, 165
Columbia, SC

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led Clemson with 18 points, while K.J. McDanielsK.J. McDaniels
So. Forward
#32 6-6, 200
Birmingham, AL

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added 16 before fouling out late in the game. Clemson’s two seniors – Devin BookerDevin Booker
Sr. Forward
#31 6-8, 250
Whitmire, SC

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and Jennings – combined for 18 points, 10 of those coming in the final frantic last two minutes.

Clemson head coach Brad BrownellBrad Brownell
Head Coach
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said the game was merely a replay of the last month.

“Same situation the last month of the season,” Brownell said. “We play well for a good period of the game and then the game gets away from us. Proud of the way our guys fought back, we seem to do that to give the guys a chance but credit Florida State - they made the free throws they need to do make and advanced.

“It’s difficult. You know, it’s very difficult. Obviously the fact that our guys are competing helps because we’re going to practice every day and working at it and really trying. We have some deficiencies that we have to improve. Until we do that this is going to be the outcome. Felt bad for our seniors, but we’ve seen this so many times this year if you followed our team.”

Clemson led 35-30 at the half, but seven second half turnovers and 17 points by Okaro White enabled to Noles to eventually pull away, and they will play North Carolina in the 9 p.m. game Friday night in the second round. White led all scorers with 24 points.

The Noles used a 14-3 run to take a 60-49 lead with just over four minutes remaining, sending many of the fans to the exits. A 3-pointer by Shannon at the 2:58 mark gave Florida St. its biggest lead at 65-51, but Clemson began to chip away at the lead, and Jennings hit a jumper with 1:15 remaining that made it 68-60, setting up the final flurry of fouls and missed foul shots.

Michael Snaer hit four free throws in the final 22.4 seconds left, and then hit two more free throws with 6.9 seconds showing that made it a two-possession game and helped FSU hang on.

A huge scoring drought – one field in 12:58 of game play that spanned both halves – helped the Noles over the deficit and spurt into the lead.

The Tigers played and shot almost as well as could be expected in the first half, despite missing two dunks and an open layup and hitting just 5-of-9 free throws.

The Tigers jumped out to a quick 12-6 lead after Jordan Roper hit a 3-pointer from the wing seven minutes into the game, and the Tigers extended the lead to double digits when K.J. McDaniels hit a 3-pointer that made it 26-16 at the 7:44 mark.

The Tigers twice held leads of 10 points, the last coming after a series of highlight reel plays by McDaniels, one at the defensive end and one at the offensive end. With Clemson leading 32-24 with just over four minutes remaining in the half, FSU big man Boris Bojanovsky drove in for a dunk, but a high-flying McDaniels stuffed the attempt. The Tigers pushed the ball down the floor, and as Devin Booker’s shot bounced off the rim, McDaniels swooped in for the put-back dunk and a 34-24 lead.

However, the Noles closed the half on a 10-5 run and Clemson held a 35-30 lead at intermission.

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