CLEMSON – No Atlantic Coast Conference team has played as well at home and come up as short on the road like Clemson over the last two seasons.
Brad Brownell’s Tigers have won 10-of-13 in Littlejohn Coliseum in conference play, including four-straight since mid-January, but are 2-9 away from the Palmetto State.
It is a trend Clemson (12-8, 4-4 ACC) must reverse – and quick – for a strong finish with six of their final 10 conference contests on the road, starting with Saturday's noon start at Boston College (9-11, 1-6).
Sophomore guard Rod Hall says the struggles boil down to energy – or rather not finding the key to recreating that energy they feed on in Littlejohn.
"When we’re at home, we have our crowd to get us in the game," Hall said. "The toughest thing is to stick together and have the same mindset (like) when we’re at home."
In the first 10 minutes of ACC away games, Clemson has averaged less than a point per minute (9.3) this season.
"So far it’s been difficult because every time we’ve had a road game – we’ve come out sluggish," said Hall. "We dig a hole and have to come out fighting."
The energy and early-game scoring issues are worth an inward look, but Brownell says life on the road is hard as it is.
"Teams at home play a little better," he said. "I don’t know if the teams on the road play worse. Guys are more comfortable (at home) and they shoot better.
"Momentum of positive play is reinforced by the crowd, which leads to another basket or two each half. Sometimes you have to be 10 points better on the road to win."
Keying a return to .500 in ACC play has been forward K.J. McDaniels’ play, scoring 15 or more points in each of the last three games. In addition to his trademark rim-rattling dunks, McDaniels made 8-of-17 three-pointers and 7-of-10 free throws.
The sophomore has had the fourth-biggest jump in scoring average (+7.5) among ACC players this season, but Brownell says he expects even more from the Birmingham, Ala., native.
"We see the highlight plays and are wowed by the things he can do, but there are a lot of regular basketball plays (he) needs to be making," Brownell said. "He certainly makes enough to continue to be out there and playing for us. But there’s a lot more he can get better in."
Heading to B.C., Clemson aims for its first victory in Conte Forum since the 2008-09 season, where forward Devin Booker’s brother (and now Washington Wizards big man) Trevor scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in an 87-77 win.
The Tigers have won six of the last eight in the series, but allowed the Eagles to shoot 50 percent from the field in a 59-57 loss last season in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Third-year coach Steve Donahue’s starters are all freshmen and sophomores, and the only upperclassmen averaging double-digit minutes is a transfer.
Four B.C. starters average double-figures, led by sophomore forward Ryan Anderson, whose 17.1 points per game is second-best in conference play.
The Eagles’ offense is built outside-in though, with the ACC’s top three-point shooter, sophomore guard Lonnie Jackson. Jackson has hit an even 50 percent of his attempts in conference action, averaging 13.9 ppg, and he’s one of four Boston College players with 80-plus perimeter attempts (Clemson has none).
"It’s a unique style that’s difficult to prepare for," Brownell said. "Because they always have four guys on the outside and often times they pull a high-post guy and have nobody under the basket. Puts a lot of pressure on you defensively."
Brownell says the Eagles, who are currently riding a five-game losing streak (three decided by five or less points), will pack in the lane and dare his Tigers to shoot.
"They almost give you some three-point shots," he said. "They come and contest them, but they would rather give that up than you score around the basket."
The strategy hasn’t held up well in ACC action so far, however, ranking last in defensive field goal percentage (44.9) and three-point percentage (36.7).
Clemson and B.C. airs on the ACC Network Saturday, which can be found locally on WMYA.