CLEMSON - As his players hung their heads in a solemn locker room, Brad Brownell tried to remind them the game was far from over.
"We played awful in the first half, had 16 points, we're down five," Clemson's head basketball coach said. "I mean, I'm trying to cheer our guys up at halftime. 'Hey fellas, we played terrible. Let's move on, let's get on to the next deal, and be ready to go win.'"
"Our youthfulness showed tonight. Disappointing," said Brownell.
Florida State woke up for a just-good-enough second half, while Clemson never got a handle on Thursday night's dismal 56-41 home defeat Thursday night in front of 8,319 fans, the largest crowd so far this season at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The privilege of progress can be taken away as quickly as it's earned.
If there was much back-patting after picking up the program's second road win in 13 months Saturday at Boston College, the Tigers (10-4, 1-1 ACC) are right back to finding their way.
Clemson was befallen by a litany of turnovers - a season-high 18, in every which way imaginable.
"It was one of those nights where sometimes the ball falls out of your hand," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It happens. We have those games too. They just had one of those nights with too many turnovers."
Shot-clock violations, bad passes, missed catches, lost dribbles and plain coughups gave the Seminoles a healthy 23-5 advantage in points off turnovers.
"When you play bigger, stronger, more athletic players at almost every position, it comes down to basketball execution," Brownell said. "Your skill level and IQ has to be high. The way you play together has to be good. Obviously tonight we couldn't execute. We just struggled.
"Our mainline players didn't really play very well, and it just put a lot of pressure on us. We forced some things and turned the ball over, and we became a part of our own worst enemy."
Florida State (10-4, 1-1) was hardly skilled offensively - 1-for-11 from 3-point range, 3-for-7 from the line - but the Seminoles racked up 44 points in the paint on a soft Clemson interior.
A 44 percent shooting team on the year entering Thursday, the Tigers sank to 30 percent. Leading scorer K.J. McDaniels meandered his way to 14 points (plus a team-high seven rebounds), but nobody else scored more than six.
"You're trying to do some things that you probably shouldn't try to do. You feel like you gotta go make a play," Brownell said. "You don't trust enough what you're doing as a team together sometime, and that's where sometimes the guys on the court gotta do some things."
As poorly as the Tigers had looked in the first 20 minutes - shooting just 23 percent from the floor - it was still a 21-16 game. Lackluster, but not a laugher.
"I challenged our guys at halftime," Brownell said. "I told them this is a great opportunity for you guys to rally together and do something special for yourselves. But you're going to have to do it more yourselves out on that court, as opposed to the coaches or anything else."
No dice. The Seminoles shot 50 percent in the second half, pulling away with an 8-0 run early on and never looking back.
"We just couldn't get it done," Brownell said. "That part's a little disappointing."
The Tigers have very little time to sulk: No. 16 Duke comes to town Saturday at 2 p.m., a game where Clemson's Orange Bowl champion football team will be honored at halftime.
Can the basketball team bounce back?
"That's the million dollar question. You'd be a rich man as a coach if you knew what you could do," Brownell said. "Our guys have to be resilient. We're not going to beat them down, but we're certainly going to point out mistakes and try to learn from it, move quickly into Duke and we've got to have our energy level back up."
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