Clemson began its toughest stretch of the season Sunday night against No. 16 Louisville, with that being followed by games against No. 9 Duke and No. 8 Miami. And given how the Tigers played in non-conference play, going 0-3 wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. However Brad Brownell’s team has been playing good basketball of late, and Saturday afternoon the Tigers picked up their third straight win over a ranked opponent, beating the Hurricanes 76-65 in Greenville.
So within a calendar week, Clemson’s knocked off No. 16 Louisville, No. 9 Duke and No. 8 Miami. And now they’re 5-1 in ACC play and have the look of a team that could have some staying power in what should be a very tough conference race.
The biggest change for the Tigers has been the play of junior forward Jaron Blossomgame, who scored 25 points against the Hurricanes and has now scored in double figures in all six of Clemson’s ACC games. Blossomgame played part of the non-conference slate at less than full strength, and that had an impact from a consistency standpoint. Now back to 100 percent, he’s been a consistent scorer on multiple levels for a team that at times struggled offensively before ACC play began.
Against Miami the junior was productive both inside and out, scoring his 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field (2-for-3 3PT) and 5-for-5 from the foul line. Consistency’s also been a key for sophomore forward Donte Grantham, who scored 14 points Saturday and has reached double figures in four of Clemson’s five ACC wins. The triumvirate of Blossomgame, Grantham and Landry Nnoko took advantage of a shorthanded Duke front court on Wednesday, and they once again held the edge against a Miami front court with no such depth concerns.
Add in 18 points and six assists from Jordan Roper, who outplayed Miami’s Angel Rodriguez (three points on 1-for-7 FG, three assists), and Clemson was able to do enough to close out another impressive victory.
As is the case with players such as Grantham from an individual standpoint, the difference in Clemson from non-conference play to now boils down to one word: consistency. Now that guys who were expected to be key contributors when the season began are proving themselves to be reliable night in and night out, Clemson’s been able to string together wins few expected them to get.
This tough stretch of games isn’t done yet, as the Tigers’ next two games are against Virginia (in Charlottesville) and Pittsburgh, but at this rate it wouldn’t be wise to automatically count Clemson out.