Tigers look for big finish to tough stretch

NATHAN GRAY/INDEPENDENT MAIL PHOTO
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell yells to a player in the second half of their game against FSU at Littlejohn Coliseum on Thursday.

Photo by Nathan Gray

NATHAN GRAY/INDEPENDENT MAIL PHOTO Clemson head coach Brad Brownell yells to a player in the second half of their game against FSU at Littlejohn Coliseum on Thursday.

Clemson plays its second game in a 48-hour period for the second time in ACC action this season.

The difference in this instance? It’s on the road, backing up a 57-44 loss at No. 1 Syracuse Sunday night with a three hour-plus flight and a 7 p.m. tip Tuesday night at Notre Dame’s Joyce Center.

“Well, we’re tired,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We got in at 1:30 a.m. (Sunday) night after the Syracuse game. Got the quick turnaround with Notre Dame. We played well in spurts (Sunday)...Just couldn’t get enough stops against a good Syracuse team. Now we have to regroup.”

The first short-rest run of basketball was a split, losing by double-digits to Florida State and then upsetting top-20 Duke by double-digits. They hope to see a similar turnaround offensively.

Against the ‘Noles, they shot 30 percent from the field, but recovered to hit 47 percent of their attempts in a 72-point effort against the Blue Devils. Sunday night, K.J. McDaniels was the lone Tiger in double-figures (19 points/10 rebounds) as they hit only 34 percent of their shots against the Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone. They had a Brownell era-low 14 field goals.

All but one of the Clemson’s four conference losses had a single scorer in double-figures, while McDaniels and at least one more Tiger scored 10-plus in the six wins. Exemplifying the issues, junior guard Rod Hall entered ACC play averaging double-digits scoring, but has failed to do so in his last seven games.

Notre Dame (12-12, 3-8) has had its own slippery slope in conference action, and much of that thanks to losing one of the nation’s top players in December.

Due to season-ending academic issues, senior guard Jerian Grant and his team-best 19 points and 6.2 assists per game have been gone for the last 12 games, where the Fighting Irish has gone 4-8. Sharing a home win over Duke with Clemson, they are 2-8 since.

With three starters averaging double-figures — paced by senior 6-11 center Garrick Sherman (14.6 PPG) — Notre Dame is fourth in the ACC in points per possession (1.079) and third in effective field goal percentage (52). They have averaged 12 turnovers in losses, coming off 18 in a home loss to UNC on Saturday.

The Irish have struggled defensively in conference play, next-to-last in defensive points per possession (1.097) and last in two-point field goal defense (50.6).

“They’ll mix it up and play (man and zone),” Brownell said. “It’ll be a different game. We’ll play a team that will run a lot of motion. They have a good inside game with Sherman. We have to rally our troops a little bit.

“We’ll try to get a good 48-hour prep and get our minds right and get our energy back and try to win a tough road game.”

Clemson (15-7) is emerging from a brutal road stretch, a fifth contest away from Littlejohn Coliseum in the last six games. With a win Tuesday, they can grab a fourth ACC road victory for only the fifth time in school history.

The Tigers have held four of their six road opponents to 60 or less points, and with an even or better record, they are 3-1 in those contests with a four-point advantage in the victories.

“I can barely remember who it started with,” said Brownell. “We’ve had a long three weeks here. Obviously some very difficult games in some challenge venues. It’s showed our team that when we play well and defend, we can play with some very good teams in this country. Hopefully that’s given our guys some confidence.”

In ESPN’s latest projections, Clemson is among the first four out of the NCAA Tournament field. They will play five of their final seven games at home, including matchups with two top-15 KenPom-rated teams (Virginia and Pittsburgh).

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