No tune up game for the Tigers this year. Clemson jumped right into ACC play as they tipped off the basketball season tonight in Littlejohn against Virginia Tech. It is the first time since the 1960’s that has happened, and this one turned out like so many others last season.
After controlling the first half and taking a three point lead into halftime, the Tigers went stone cold in the second half and dropped the opener 67-60 to Virginia Tech. Clemson played pretty well on the defensive side, but just had no answer for Landers Nolley II. The Hokie freshman finished with 30 points on 12-23 shooting, including going 4-8 from three.
John Newman III led the Tigers with 15 points, with 11 of those coming in the second half. Aamir Simms added 12 points, but shot just 4-11 from the field and just 1-4 from beyond the arc. Simms was a force on the boards though, grabbing 15 rebounds to give him his first double-double of the season. Four of those rebounds came on the offensive glass.
As a team, the Tigers shot just 34% from the field, after shooting 44% in the first half. They finished up just 7-29 (24%) from three after going 6-15 (40%) in the first half. Worst of all, the team shot just 9-15 from the free throw line and missed some crucial ones from the line in the second half. Hunter Tyson missed 3 straight after being fouled on a 3 point attempt, and freshman Chase Hunter was just 1-5 from the line, all coming in the second half.
There were some good things to take from this one, however. Freshman Al-Amir Dawes looked really good running the floor as the point guard. He had 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists, but went ice cold in the second half. After the break he had just 2 points and shot 1-7 from the floor, including 0-4 from beyond the arc. Despite the cold shooting in the second half, Tiger fans have to feel much better about having a freshman as the teams point guard after watching Dawes tonight. He plays fast and really likes to push the ball up the court.
Newman III played really well tonight as well. Reports of him having taken a huge step in his development look to be true. He was aggressive most of the night, choosing attack the basket instead of settling for long jump shots. Simms looked really good too, despite not shooting well.
This is a young team. There were youthful mistakes tonight, some coming late that cost them. Bumps in the road are to be expected, but this one they could have, and should have won.