CLEMSON — Following Clemson basketball’s ACC-opening 71-66 loss to Florida State on Saturday, Clemson coach Brad Brownell shot down a reporter’s hypothesis that attempted to explain another slow start.
“It’s not always as easy as one team was ready to play and one team wasn’t ready to play when someone builds a lead. I think that’s too easy to assume,” Brownell said. “When one team shoots well and one team doesn’t, I think that’s a big problem. A cycle starts where you are in transition defense all the time and you are going against a set defense all the time, and that makes it appear even more problematic.”
Shooting has been a problem for Clemson (8-5, 0-1 ACC).
The Tigers entered 10th in the ACC in 3-point shooting (33 percent) and 10th in free-throw percentage (65.2 percent). And the lack of shooting Saturday created a vicious cycle against the Seminoles (9-5, 1-0).
The Tigers made just two of their first 11 field goal attempts. Florida State made 50 percent of its first-half field goals. As a result, the Seminoles led by 16 points with 10:09 to play in the first half and took a 38-25 lead at the break.
Through more aggressive drives to the basket, resulting in 16 points in the paint in the second half, Clemson made it a one-possession game in the final two minutes. But Clemson converted just 18 of 30 free throws in the game, including several key misses by Devin Booker at the front end of one-and-ones late in the game.
“It certainly tries your patience,” Brownell said. “It’s something we work on.”
The missed shots, missed free throws and turnovers — including four turnovers by Milton Jennings in the final two minutes — prevented Clemson from stealing a win.
Of course they weren’t all unforced errors. Florida State had something to do with Clemson’s woes.
While Florida State’s defense isn’t quite at the level it has been in past years when it led the nation in field goal percentage defense in 2009-10 and 2010-11, the Seminoles remain loaded with long, athletic players. Florida State point guard Montay Brandon stands 6-7, nearly the same height Clemson starting forwards Booker (6-8) and Jennings (6-9).
The Seminoles bothered undersized Clemson with their length on shot attempts, and diminished passing lanes for Clemson guards like Rod Hall and Jordan Roper.
“Their length was a factor, but I think we can get around that as the season goes on,” Roper said. “I think we were just not confident with the ball. We didn’t play well in terms of handling the ball.”
Roper noted length was an issue for Clemson’s slow start. Brownell said Clemson simply had a poor shooting night. Booker, who produced game highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds, thought energy was a problem.
“They were just playing with more energy in the first half and we didn’t have it,” Booker said.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Clemson, which travels to No. 1 Duke at 7 p.m. Tuesday (ESPNU).
“We’re a little down,” Brownell said. “We have to dust ourselves off.”