The Clemson Tigers caught the attention of the rest of the ACC a couple of weeks ago when they put a pretty solid hammering on the visiting Duke Blue Devils by a 72-59 score on January 11. On Tuesday night, the Tigers had a chance to show that the win wasn’t a fluke and that they could play successful basketball on the road in the conference as well.
In Pittsburgh, Clemson failed that test miserably. The Tigers failed to score more than 23 points in either half and were destroyed by the Pittsburgh Panthers 76-43.
That kind of loss makes it very hard to take Clemson seriously as an ACC contender and points to the Tigers’ win over Duke as being nothing more than an odd result that wouldn’t be replicated if the teams met 10 more times — especially with the Blue Devils having beaten Virginia narrowly and blowing out North Carolina State since that loss.
Despite being 4-2 in the conference and still tied for fourth in the standings, this season looks a lot like many in the past for Clemson. It included a decent start where the Tigers rolled up quite a few wins outside of the conference, and then the Duke win which looked like it was going to be the centerpiece to a very nice NCAA Tournament resume.
Now, the Tigers are just another also-ran in the ACC, one that lost by 15 at home to Florida State and who now has a 33-point loss at Pittsburgh to their credit.
Losing to Pittsburgh wouldn’t have been all that much of a surprise. The Panthers are 17-2 (5-1 in the ACC), and their two losses have both come away from home and by a total of only six points. There probably weren’t too many people who really expected Clemson to win Tuesday, but losing as the Tigers did is unacceptable.
Clemson shot just 32 percent from the field (16-of-50), 50 percent from the free throw line (7-of-14) and committed 14 turnovers while only dishing out nine assists. Forward K.J. McDaniels led the Tigers in scoring, but he only had 11 points. Jordan Roper, Rod Hall and Sidy Djitte tied for consolation scoring honors with just six points each.
Clemson wasn’t any good at the defensive end, either. The Tigers allowed Pittsburgh to hit 27 field goals while shooting 56 percent, and the Panthers nearly assisted every basket. Pitt finished with 24 assists and just 10 turnovers. Clemson was comprehensively thrashed in every facet of the game Tuesday, and it was the second time this season that the Tigers failed to score at least 44 points in an ACC game.
The blowout also comes at a critically bad time for Clemson. Four of the Tigers’ next five games are on the road and they are all conference games. The first game of that stretch will be played Sunday night at North Carolina. That sentence alone is enough for Tiger fans to break out in sweats. Clemson has never won in Chapel Hill, going 0-56. After that, Clemson goes to Florida State, hosts Georgia Tech, then has a tough two-game trip at Syracuse and Notre Dame.
Unless the Tigers can figure out to win at North Carolina for the first time ever, or pull upsets against programs like Florida State or Notre Dame, the blowout loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday might well send Clemson into a tailspin.