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Clemson Basketball

Basketball notes: Clemson falls to South Carolina after an ugly performance

December 16, 2019
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Clemson basketball’s three-game winning streak over South Carolina was snapped in a game uglier than a sweater at your local Christmas party.

The Tigers fell to the Gamecocks 67-54 and collectively shot 28-percent from the field. Clemson had more turnovers (22) than made shots (14-of-50) and did not make a basket in the final 6:48 of regulation after an Aamir Simms three-pointer cut the deficit to eight points.

Simms led the Tigers with a game-high 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting. That’s the type of scoring effort that Brad Brownell would have wanted from the rest of his team. Instead, the Tigers looked sloppy and out of sorts for most of the evening.

During Clemson’s previous three-game winning streak over the Gamecocks, the Tigers were usually the more experienced team who boasted the best player on the floor. That was not the case on Sunday. 

It was South Carolina’s AJ Lawson and then everyone else as the NBA prospect and potential first-round NBA draft pick led the Gamecocks with 20 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes. Malik Kotsar had 11 points and 10 boards and Jair Bolden scored 10 second-half points to keep any Clemson comeback from occurring.

The lack of offense for the Tigers looked abundantly clear as three starters (Tevin Mack, Al-Amir Dawes, and John Newman) shot a collective 6-of-31 from the field. Dawes’ 13 points were second on the team behind Simms. The freshman, although confident and plays with a fire, looked like he was pressing a bit as shots continued not to fall.

But Dawes looked better in comparison to Jonathan Baehre (ACL) and Chase Hunter, who were both coming off injuries. Both players looked uncomfortable and lacked confidence all night. 

Baehre looked ginger testing out his knee, which was a bit of a surprise to Brownell, who said Baehre looked fine in practice all week leading up to the rivalry game. You have Dawes who does too much, then other key pieces who don’t do enough, then Simms, who seems like the happy medium.

“You can’t play in games against the level of talent we’ve played the last two games and play not confidently,” Brownell said. “You can’t be scared. You can’t be soft. These are extremely competitive teams that are very physical and aggressive defensively and you have to play with swagger and confidence. Dawes does that, but now he’s playing with a little too much. But I love it. That’s what is going to make him a good player. He believes in himself. 

“When you are a young guy competing at this level, that’s the first thing that shows that you’re good. We gotta coach the rest of it out of them. We gotta get some other guys a little bit healthier so that they can practice consistently and just get a little bit better.”

To turn things around this season, Clemson is going to have to get its key pieces not only healthy, but get them to elevate their play to a different season. Or else this season could end up looking like last night, like one of those ugly sweaters at your local Christmas party.

 

Brad Brownell’s postgame quotes:

“First off, congratulate South Carolina. I thought they played very well today. They clearly had a little more experience at a few positions and those guys rose to the challenge of the game. I thought both teams were ready to play and competed. I know they had a lot going on with finals, but both teams had competitive practices this week. They just played better, made shots. I thought our kids competed hard. I thought the first half was very ugly with turnovers on both sides. Both teams were fighting each other to compete and both teams were fighting each other to score. In second half, they started finding a rhythm. We played poorly in stretches. Having a hard time getting so of our players to just slow down a little bit. They think the answer is to play faster, some of our younger players. We’re finding out that that isn’t going to be the answer at this level. I thought we tried some things defensively in the second half to get them to turn it over and get out of rhythm and they made some shots against zone and finished the game very well. 

On Dawes:

“I think Al is obviously forcing some shots and pressing. He took four or five shots that we probably don’t want him taking. Some of that is his competitive spirit. He wants to win so bad and is a little firecracker out there, a lot of times in a good way but a few times you can’t get him to understand how to slow down and make decisions. We’ve got to keep coaching that part of it. We are losing rhythm at times and we are not getting some touches some guys in good positions. We gotta coach that better. 

We also gotta have some guys step up. We have to have some good players that are going to have to make some tough plays in games like this. When you play the Florida State’s and South Carolina’s and they make it very difficult to move the ball at all, they forceyou to make some individual play. I thought there were times where we were soft and had balls stripped from us. We just gotta get back in the gym and work on it.”
 

On 22 turnovers:

“Obviously, it’s a huge concern. You can’t win doing that. I don’t know what else to tell you, that’s not our strength right now. We are playing with young players, some guys in some tough spots, and we are playing against defenses that are very physical and it’s causing us to make bad plays. 

“Baehre had a tough day today trying to get back. You can see he doesn’t look comfortable and confident and I don’t know why he doesn’t - he didn’t look that bad this week in practice. It’s different when you are playing in a live situation, so we just gotta have a couple of these guys - Chase (Hunter) obviously just got back practicing this week and he looked very rusty and not confident. You can’t play in games against the level of talent we’ve played the last two games and play not confidently. You can’t be scared. You can’t be soft. These are extremely competitive teams that are very physical and aggressive defensively and you have to play with swagger and confidence. Dawes does that, but now he’s playing with a little too much. But I love it. That’s what is going to make him a good player. He believes in himself. When you are a young guy competing at this level, that’s the first thing that shows that you’re good. We gotta coach the rest of it out of them. We gotta get some other guys a little bit healthier so that they can practice consistently and just get a little bit better. We are going to work hard on that here as soon as we can.”

“It was a very physical, tough game. It’s hard to play good offensive basketball unless you are a really good player or are a team the really executes well. I think Frank Martin’s team and my team are both still young enough and it’s early enough that we are trying to figure that part of it out. We’re not there yet by any stretch.”

On confrontation with Tevin Mack at the end of the game:

“I don’t know. I didn’t see any of it. I just saw somebody grabbing Tevin Mack. I don’t know what happened, but I’ll certainly look into it and try to find out what happened. I didn’t see anything.”

2-for-14 from your two and three-man in the game:

 “You can’t win games when those guys shoot those numbers. We’ve got to shoot better…. When you play 25 minutes in a game, we gotta be able to count on you. We’re working on that. It’s a growing process with both those guys.”

 
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