Clemson came to the Charleston Classic hoping to learn a little more about themselves as a team.
After beating Temple (72-58) in opening round and crushing Davidson (85-54) to get to the championship game against Massachusetts, the Tigers were put onto a stage that Clemson head coach Brad Brownell believes his team might not be ready for just yet.
UMass center Cady Lalanne scored 20 points, hauled down 12 rebounds and blocked four shots to lead the Minutemen (6-0) past the Tigers, 62-56, in the finals of the Charleston Classic Sunday night before a crowd of about 2,117 at TD Arena.
The Tigers (5-1), who won this tournament back in 2008, struggled from the floor, shooting just 35.6 percent, and committed 14 turnovers, including three during the final minute with the game on the line.
“I thought we looked a little nervous at times, especially at the beginning of the game,” Brownell said. “We didn’t seem like ourselves. We missed some free throws. We didn’t seem like we were in a good flow. We seemed a little antsy. We were not as confident as we needed to be. We were not ready for this moment, to play in an important game like this right now.”
Brownell is hoping the experience in the Lowcountry will better prepare the Tigers if a similar situation arises later in the season.
“I think we take a lot of positives from this week,” Brownell said. “We faced a lot of different teams that play different styles. I think this is something we can learn from and build on.”
The Tigers had no answer for the 6-10 Lalanne. The Minutemen ran very few plays designed to get Lalanne the ball as he did most of his damage on the offensive glass. Lalanne went 7 of 13 from the floor, and hauled in seven offensive rebounds.
“(Lalanne) was a pretty good player, probably better than I thought,” Brownell said. “I wish I could have seen him live. He did some good things. It’s hard to take it all away. They’ve got so many weapons. He took advantage of some things. He got some 50-50 balls that we needed to get. Those were just killers for us.”
Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels, who came into the game averaging nearly 19 points a game, struggled with the Minutemen’s length and perimeter speed. The 6-6 junior, who had easily taken Davidson and Temple defenders off the dribble, found it more difficult to get to the rim against UMass.
“I think our size and athleticism bothered (McDaniels),” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “McDaniels is a great player and he didn’t have his best game. I’d like to think we had something to do with that, But I think a part of it was that he was a little off.”
UMass got out on the break and ran, using an 11-0 run, to a 34-24 lead at halftime.
The Minutemen grabbed a 47-33 lead on Maxie Escho’s dunk with 11:27 to play.
With about 10 minutes to play, Brownell inserted Devin Coleman into the game. Coleman known more for his defensive prowess, started hitting shots and the Tigers got back into the game. Coleman scored eight straight points to close the gap to 58-54 with 2:40 to play.
After a Lalanne free throw, Rod Hall, who finished with a team-high 16 points, connected on layup to make it a one-possession game.
But that would be as close as the Tigers would get, committed two turnovers on two straight possessions.
“There were a couple of possessions that I’d like to have back,” Brownell said. “We just didn’t make a play when we needed it.”