Senior foul trouble added up to a big problem for Clemson's Tigers in a last-second 60-57 loss to Florida State Thursday night.
With Devin Booker and Milton Jennings plagued by fouls, the youngest Tigers made just enough mistakes to keep the Seminoles in the game. And then, with the game on the line, a series of late-game plays fell in FSU's favor.
Brad Brownell said he was forced to ask too much of his freshmen and sophomores.
"Our main guys were in foul trouble and that puts a lot of pressure on our other players, and right now some of them aren't ready to do all the things we need them to do," said Brownell. "I thought K.J. (McDaniels) stepped up and did some good things and tried to make some plays, and Rod was asked to do a lot. He had great assist-to-turnover numbers.
"But we had a few chances in the second half when we didn't get stops, and we're just not good enough to trade baskets with people in that scenario."
Brownell said the Tigers faltered in the decisive moments.
"On the last play, we looked like a team that didn't have a guy who wanted to go make a play," he said. "I'm disappointed and frustrated with that. Rod and K.J. both had the ball, and I told them to go make plays. But they just kind of passed it back and forth. The lanes were open to go make a play, and they didn't do it...
"Somebody on our team on the perimeter is going to have put their head down and go make plays every once in a while. That's what basketball becomes - you move the defense a little bit and somebody's got to go make a play, either for themselves or to draw help and pass. We're just not quite ready for all that."
A late-game defensive lapse hurt the Tigers as well.
"We had run a nice inbounds play to Jordan (Roper) for a jumper that gave us a three-point lead, but then Adonis (Filer) made a freshman mistake on a penetration drive," Brownell said. "He had been told to stay with the shooter, but he helped and gave (Devon) Bookert the three. You just can't do that. You can't make those kinds of mistakes late."
Booker and McDaniels finished with 15 points each, but no other Tiger scored more than two baskets.
"We needed a third scorer tonight, and we really couldn't find one. Book and K.J. both had 15, but we needed one more guy to get us 10 or 12 points to help take the pressure off.
"It was hard in the second half, playing with all the young guys. There are some things we just don't run that we can run with Milt and Book. But having said that, I thought Josh (Smith) gave us some good minutes and fought hard, and Bernard (Sullivan) gave us some good minutes. I was pretty pleased with the way those guys played.
"We had some fouls that resulted in us watching them shoot free throws for the first 12 minutes of the second half. I just felt like we were just watching them shoot free throws the whole time."
Florida State made 18 of 20 free throw attempts and outscored Clemson 18-10 at the line.
"It's just a very painful loss," said Brownell. "We were in charge for most of the game and played really well. It was a difficult second half, because it felt like they were shooting free throws most of the half. We had some problems with that.
"The last shot just happens. We had guys in front of him (Michael Snaer), and he missed it by three feet and it banked in."