Tigers look for turnaround from 'excruciating' losses

Miami's Kenny Kadji shoots a three-point attempt with 54.6 seconds left in Sunday's game against Clemson. The shot was good and Miami went up 44-43.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Miami's Kenny Kadji shoots a three-point attempt with 54.6 seconds left in Sunday's game against Clemson. The shot was good and Miami went up 44-43.

According to the philosopher Seneca, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

He never mentioned that sometimes that luck is bad.

The 2012-13 Clemson men’s basketball team prepared well for Miami on Sunday and had a great opportunity to win the game at the end. Instead the Hurricanes - now ranked No. 2 in the nation - escaped with a 45-43 victory, continuing the Tigers’ streak of 11th hour misfortune.

“It was a disappointing loss after a great two days of practice and a terrific effort,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said.

The near-misses this season have been both painful and frequent.

There was Jan. 5, which resulted in a 71-66 loss to Florida State at home.

And then Jan. 24, which saw a 60-57 setback to the Seminoles in Tallahassee.

On Jan. 20 it was a 66-62 defeat dealt by North Carolina State in Raleigh.

On Feb. 10 it was Wolfpack 58, Tigers 57, in Clemson’s house.

The latest instance of Brownell and his crew seeing Lady Luck shine on the other team came when Miami left Littlejohn Coliseum still unbeaten in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

For the hosts it was a familiar refrain; close, but not close enough - a victory in sight, but just out of reach.

“We’ve had to deal with it a lot throughout the year,” Brownell said on Monday. “Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of these games. The Florida State game on the road really sticks out and N.C. State on the road. It’s very difficult. The N.C. State game at home and Miami at home - those two are excruciating. Against Miami we didn’t hit free throws and N.C. State made a great shot at the end to beat us.”

Brownell continues to look for positives in his team, which now sits at 13-12 overall and 5-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and there are many to be found. Fans who showed up at the arena on Sunday or watched the game on TV saw a hard-working group that plays from opening tip to the final whistle.

Defensively the Tigers often deal the opposition fits.

In Sunday’s clash with the Hurricanes, Miami was held to 34.6 shooting from the floor and went just 3-of-19 from beyond the arc.

Clemson sophomore guard Rod Hall stymied Miami point guard Shane Larkin, who was limited to just seven points and three turnovers. In addition, the Hurricanes’ point production was their lowest of the season.

“It was not surprising, it was expected,” ‘Canes coach Jim Larranaga said following Sunday night’s game. “Our team needed to defend them as well as we possibly could because we knew they were going to defend us very, very well. It’s one of those games that’s not pretty but shows a lot of competitive spirit by both teams.”

But in close encounters this season something bad always seems to happen for Clemson at the end, whether the opposition hits a last-second shot or the Tigers miss one.

Miami big man Kenny Kadji, who had chunked five bricks previously from 3-point range, was a deadeye from outside the arc with 34 seconds to play.

His three swished the net and gave Miami a 44-43 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.

“Kenny Kadji’s three was big,” Brownell said. “It was one of the very few ball screen mistakes that we made in the game and he hit a big shot.”

Freshman guard Jordan Roper was the hottest offensive player on the court, scoring 19 points for Clemson. Still, his performance was the only outstanding offensive performance by a Tiger and secondary to another near-miss by his team.

When asked how the squad can move forward following yet another heartbreaking loss, he was matter of fact.

“You just have to go forward,” he said. “You can’t quit.”

Brownell says the locker room is a tough place to be after losses like these, but he reminds his players that they’re on the right track.

“We just tell our guys to stay the course and when we play well we’re a tough team to beat,” he said. “We’ve just got to hang in there and do what we can.”

Clemson gets bit of down time before facing Maryland on the road next Saturday.

The coach hopes it comes at the right time.

“We’ll take a couple of days here and try to lick our wounds before we get back to work,” Brownell said. “Right now this might be a good thing to have a week. We’ve had a bunch of these emotional games back to back. It’s probably better that we get a couple of extra days after this one.”

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