CLEMSON - The wins and losses have come two-by-two in Clemson basketball’s roller-coaster conference season.
But with 10 games to go, they are in still in prime position, a game out of a first-day bye in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Nine of 12 teams in the league have at least three conference losses, with the Tigers in the middle of the fray (4-4).
Six of the final 10 contests will be on the road, which has been less than forgiving so far, starting with Saturday’s noon tipoff at Boston College (9-11, 1-6 ACC).
Clemson’s road woes began in Durham, struggling in all aspects to a 28-point loss (68-40) to Duke. The last two were in the heartbreak category, failing to close out single-possession games late at N.C State and Florida State.
“At N.C. State and Florida State, we had great chances to win,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “And hopefully we can play as well at B.C. and find a way in the last two minutes to make a better showing. We’ll know if we’re going to do well and make a run at the upper half of the league.”
The No. 14 Miami Hurricanes (16-3, 7-0) pace that upper half a full two games ahead of No. 5 Duke (18-2, 5-2) and Virginia (15-5, 5-2).
After the Wahoos, there’s the jumbled pack that the Tigers reside in, with four teams within a game and a half of third place.
Brownell’s bunch have the misfortune of a home-and-home left with the rolling Hurricanes, but they also get their chances against fellow middling teams N.C. State (home), Maryland (road) and UNC (home) and bottom-feeders B.C. (home/away), Georgia Tech (road) and Virginia Tech (road).
“With the schedule the way it is, we’ve had a lot of home games and that’s been nice in a lot of ways,” Brownell said. “But we’ve played reasonably well on the road.
“We’re going to have to win some road games – it’s a tough stretch.”
Part of the new 18-game ACC schedule’s quirk was playing four games in nine days in the last stretch. Sophomore guard Rod Hall says the three days between games this week were much-needed, getting Wednesday off to rest their legs.
Helping to spell tired Tigers in Tuesday’s 63-60 win over Georgia Tech was sophomore forward Bernard Sullivan, who tied a career-high with seven points in nine minutes.
He struggled with breathing issues related to asthma that limited him last season, but this week’s performance may prove to be a turning point.
“He’s got into a lot better shape,” Hall said. “Last year, he would go up-and-down the court a couple times and he’d be dead. He is more in tune with what he’s doing and worked a lot over the summer to get in shape.”
Forward Devin Booker is eighth in minutes played per game in conference play (35.5), despite dealing with flu-like symptoms against Florida State and Virginia Tech.
Overall, six Tigers are averaging over 20 minutes, with sophomore guard Damarcus Harrison’s playing time spiking recently while coming into his own on the court. He has been on the floor for a career-high 34 minutes in back-to-back games, averaging 13.5 points and hitting 5-of-9 three-pointers.