By Philip Sikes // Athletic Communications
It wasn’t exactly the result Brad Brownell or his players wanted, but the Tigers did show a good bit of growth over the duration of the Paradise Jam. Following a gut-wrenching loss to Gardner-Webb in the opening round, Clemson rebounded with wins over Nevada and LSU to go 2-1 in St. Thomas.
As our group readies to depart for the airport, a few notes and observations from the trip:
• The Tigers need Damarcus Harrison to play like he did in this event. He averaged a team-best 14.3 ppg and was named to the All-Tournament Team. As good as he was offensively — with 19 points against Gardner-Webb and 16 vs. LSU — he was a major factor for the Tigers defensively. Harrison primarily guarded Nevada’s Michael Perez, a player who scored 25 on the Tigers in the 2011 Diamond Head Classic for UTEP. Perez had just four on Saturday. Harrison followed by helping limit LSU marksman Keith Hornsby to 2-for-12 shooting, 0-of-5 from three-point range, in the final round.
• Clemson’s final four minutes against LSU were nearly perfect. Brownell’s team made three of its five shot attempts and 7-for-8 at the free throw stripe. LSU was held to 2-for-11 during the same stretch. It was a stark contrast from Clemson’s play in the final four minutes against Gardner-Webb, a sign of growth.
• Rod Hall is clutch. He continues to walk to the free throw line in close games, and deliver. He was 5-for-5 in the win over LSU, four of which came in the final minutes.
• Speaking of Hall, he continued to show his warrior mentality. He played 109 minutes — second-most of all players in the tournament — and had just four turnovers.
• Every team needs a high-energy guy. That was a question coming into the season for the Tigers — who would replace K.J. McDaniels’ effort plays on a consistent basis? Well, Jaron Blossomgame has been that guy for Clemson. He leads the team in offensive rebounds, charges taken and always seems to be around the basket. There weren’t many plays bigger than his tip-in with 1:27 to play in Monday’s win over LSU that gave Clemson a three-point cushion.
• Landry Nnoko’s presence in the middle means everything. He changed several shots at the basket Monday and blocked eight shots in the tourney, more than any other player.
• In one of the best plays only a few fans may have seen on the live Web stream, freshman Donte Grantham showed a level of alertness you don’t typically see in a young player. He lunged to save a defensive rebound early in the second half against LSU, but instead of simply throwing it back in toward LSU’s basket, his eyes looked up the floor and found a leaking Harrison for a breakaway dunk. It was a ‘Wow’ play that Grantham seems to provide at least once a game.
• Clemson needs a great atmosphere over the next four games. The Tigers have a four-game home stretch with a quality High Point team on Friday, Rutgers in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Monday, and then Sunday contests against Arkansas (Dec. 7) and Auburn (Dec. 14) out of the SEC. With so many fans in town for the big football game this weekend, a huge crowd could make a big difference.
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