If the Clemson Tigers have been reading up on their next opponent, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, chances are Clemson plans to be in for an easy night Monday when the teams meet in one of the opening games of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. After all, Rutgers enters the game off a 45-26 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday night in the final of the Barclays Center Classic. The Scarlet Knights scored just eight points in the second half of that game.
But if the Tigers are figuring on a similar blowout Monday night, there are a couple points they would be wise to consider. First, as bad as Rutgers ended up offensively on Saturday night, the fact remains that the Scarlet Knights (3-3) were actually leading eighth-ranked and defending ACC champion Virginia at the half, 18-17. The Cavaliers also had trouble shooting for themselves against Rutgers, finishing just 18-for-55 (33 percent) from the field in the win.
For Clemson, this could equal a bit of concern because the Tigers aren’t exactly known as an offensive juggernaut themselves. Clemson is averaging just less than 70 points per game this season, which puts them just into the second half of teams in the country in that category. Clemson is also trying to adjust to life without K.J. McDaniels, who was last year’s leading scorer and also contributed to the team in many other statistical categories. Landry Nnoko (12.2 PPG) and DaMarcus Harrison (11.3) have led the Tigers to 4-2 record so far. The Tigers scored 86 in a season-opening win over Florida A&M but haven’t topped 76 since, and despite winning three straight games, they have only managed 59, 62 and 64 points offensively in those triumphs.
Points are very likely to be at a premium between Clemson and Rutgers on Monday night, which means that for the Tigers to avoid the upset, one important factor will be taking care of the basketball. To this point, Clemson is averaging 12 turnovers to only 11 assists per game. Clemson is 250th in the nation in assists per game (11.2) and 328th in the country in defensive steals per game, so the Tigers aren’t forcing many turnovers, either.
Rutgers may not be the team offensively equipped to take advantage of the Tigers’ possible weaknesses, and tougher tests surely await; but if Clemson thinks they can coast past Rutgers just because of the Scarlet Knights’ putrid offensive showing on Saturday, the Tigers may have another thing coming.