Heartache at Wake Forest: Clemson Tigers Fall 70-65 Sunday Night

Brooks DixonContributor IMarch 8, 2010

ATLANTA - JANUARY 28:  Head coach Dino Gaudio of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on January 28, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As the Clemson University men’s basketball team heaved several desperation shots at the end of Sunday night’s game with Wake Forest, they witnessed their day off slip away.

With a win the Tigers would have found themselves with a first round bye on Thursday, but instead find themselves in sixth place with a game awaiting them with the North Carolina State Wolfpack, a team that traditionally decides to wake up and start playing basketball around tournament time.

“We played sporadically, when your shots aren’t falling, you’ve got to play defense, and we didn’t get in our defenses, didn’t get into our pressure enough tonight. We didn’t play smart” said junior guard Demontez Stitt. Stitt, who scored 18 points couldn’t help the tigers enough, as they went a very mediocre 5 of 25 from beyond the arc, mostly on wide open shots.

When Clemson struggles to hit big shots, typically the team struggles to succeed as solid defense and full court pressure can only go so far. If this team wants to succeed in the post season, it needs to go through senior big man Trevor Booker, which it struggled with on Sunday night.

Booker, who played 32 minutes in the game only got off eight shots, struggled to dominate as he has against most other ACC competition. Wake Forest big man Chas McFarland managed to keep him in check despite fouling out towards the end of the game as both of the two big men were playing very physical basketball.
Not only did Trevor Booker struggle in the paint against the much taller Demon Deacons, the tigers other big men Jerai Grant and Milton Jennings struggled down the stretch of the game. Jennings, a 6’9” freshmen scored no points in eight minutes as he picked up a third foul early in the second half and Grant struggled after a hot start scoring most of his points in the first half.

Senior David Potter hit some early three pointers but was heavily guarded from that point by Wake guard CJ Harris and only got one more decent look from the outside, which he knocked down.

In addition to the missed shots, the tigers struggled rebounding against the taller Deacons 39-30, including 16 offensive rebounds for Wake Forest. Clemson will need to get back to being physical of the offensive glass, as well as knock down its key three-pointers if they want to any type of a run in the ACC tournament. Will they be able to remains to be seen.

Clemson has struggled away from Littlejohn losing at Boston College and only winning two ACC road games, at Florida State and at NC State and playing at a neutral site in Greensboro should not help them out. Still, Clemson has enough fire power and experience to make a deep run in the ACC or the NCAA tournament, but can they get by NC State first?