CLEMSON – Same old story, same old heartbreak for Clemson on Sunday at Littlejohn Coliseum.
A week after N.C. State’s Scott Wood buried a buzzer-beating 3 to lift the ACC preseason favorites over Clemson, No. 3 Miami forward Kenny Kadji stepped out and hit what proved to be the game-winning 3 with 34.7 seconds to play inside Littlejohn Coliseum.
In games decided by five of fewer points in ACC play, Clemson is 1-5 this season. Why?
Start with free throws. Clemson had a four-point lead with 1:09 to play yesterday, but missed two critical free throws down the stretch. Clemson made just 5 of 13 free throws in the game and is 10th in the ACC in free-throw percentage (65.7). This is hardly a new story.
The shooting woes are also apparent when examining Clemson’s field goal percentage, where Clemson also ranks 10th in the ACC (42.5 percent). And if you take away Jordan Roper’s 8 of 11 shooting line Sunday, Clemson as a team shot just 20 percent from the field, making only 9 of 45 shots. And many of the shots weren’t bad looks, simply errant shots.
I think Brad Brownell’s team deserves praise for still showing competitive spirit this late in the season, despite a postseason berth likely requiring a miracle run in the ACC Tournament.
I think Clemson’s defense was mostly sound against Miami, and has been effective throughout the year.
Brownell’s teams are prepared and mostly disciplined.
But you still have to be able to shoot as a team. It’s the most basic of basketball traits and still the most important skill – the one that correlates most readily to offensive efficiency.
And it’s really been lacking at Clemson since the Tigers had Trevor Booker, Terrence Oglesby and KC Rivers on the floor in 2009, which by no coincidence was perhaps the best Clemson team of the last decade, one that was able to route No. 3 Duke at home 74-47.
The encouraging news is Clemson might have found one shooter in Jordan Roper.
I’ve said Jordan Roper looks like a miniature Jesus Shuttlesworth errrrr Ray Allen, and it’s not just because there is a facial likeness. Roper can shot. He has a good mechanics, a quick release, and perhaps most important, is we saw the undersized Roper can create space for his shot against a long Miami team, using one quick dribble to create space in addition to catching and shooting.
Roper was a dribble-drive, pull-up type shooter in high school, but he’s been asked to be more of a Andre Young-type, catch-and-shoot guy early in his career at Clemson. On Sunday he did both.
“In high school all I did was dribble penetration, pull-up shots,” Roper said. “Here, I’ve improved my catch-and-shot. Now, I’m getting back to what I used to do, dribble penetration, pull-up jump shots. Now, if I can incorporate it all, I can be dangerous.”
But he’s just one player. Clemson needs more shooters to increase the margin for error, Adonis Filer, Jaron Blossomgame and KJ McDaniels must all improve in 2013-14. Can they? Or will Brownell have to find shooting on the recruiting trail?
BONUS TIME …
*Roper had three more steals against Miami and has shown good quickness and alertness in opponents’ passing lanes. I’d actually like to see Roper get some more minutes at the 1. He could be incredibly valuable if he could develop into a scoring point guard. But to play more 1 he needs to get stronger and better keep opponents in front of him.
*Before you’re too hard on Milton Jennings read Ron Morris’ piece on Jennings, who had an extremely difficult childhood: outstanding stuff on Clemson’s Blindside story
*Bernard Sullivan was missing in action Sunday. His development is so critical as only Landry Nnoko and Josh Smith return as post players. Can he be a stretch forward?