Clemson Does It With Defense

Author: Sean Stires

Clemson_FilerNotre Dame enters Tuesday in search of a much needed win against another solid ACC opponent – Clemson. The Tigers (15-7, 6-4 ACC) had won two straight prior to Sunday’s 57-44 setback at still unbeaten and No. 1 Syracuse. They still have hopes for an NCAA at-large berth next month, while the Irish (12-12, 3-8) are mostly fighting to keep their heads above .500 right now.

The Fighting Irish and Tigers have never met on the basketball court before. The last time Clemson won in Indiana was when they beat defending national champion Kentucky 79-71 in overtime in Indianapolis during the 1996-’97 season. Their last trip to Indiana came with a loss at Purdue in 2003.

K.J. McDaniels is Clemson’s leading and only double digit scorer at 16.4 points per game. The 6’6 junior is also the team’s leading rebounder with 7.2 boards. He’ll step outside as well with 27 3-pointers this season. Daniels also leads the ACC with an average of 2.59 blocks per game (57 total).

The Tigers have the second to last scoring offense among the 15 teams in the ACC, averaging just 62.2 points per game. They are the stingiest defensive team though, allowing an average of 55.1 points.

“You’re playing a team that can really defend again,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said of Clemson. “These guys really guard you.”

“They don’t really score it a whole bunch,” he continued. “But, they guard the heck out of you.”

The Tigers rank just 13th out of 15 ACC teams in steals at 4.6 per game, but they are the best team in the conference at preventing opposing buckets to fall. Their .381 field goal percentage defense and .271 3-point percentage defense are both the best in the conference.

Guard Rod Hall leads the Tigers with 84 assists. His 4.6 per game average ranks ninth in the ACC.  The 6’1 junior is Clemson’s second-leading scorer at 8.8 points per game. He has the team’s top 3-point percentage at 37%, but he has made just 13 from long range this season. Jordan Roper, a 5’11 sophomore, averages 8.6 points. His 23 3-pointers are second to McDaniels’ 27.

Notre Dame and Clemson have a couple of connections as well. Fighting Irish assistant Anthony Solomon was Clemson’s director of basketball operations from 1998-2000 and current Clemson guard Adonis Filer is the younger brother of former Notre Dame linebacker Steve Filer. Adonis, a sophomore from Chicago, is averaging 4.5 points and is projected to make his fourth start of the season Tuesday night.

On The Irish

Notre Dame plays its second straight home game Tuesday when it welcomes Clemson to snowy South Bend.  The Irish have struggled both at home and on the road this season. They had lost just nine times at Purcell Pavilion and had not  lost more than three times at home in a season since the start of the 2006-’07 campaign prior to this season.

ND is just 11-5 at home though during the current season. The five losses are the most at home since the 2005-’06 team was 12-5 on the home hardwoods. The 2004-‘-05 team also lost five home games.

The Fighting Irish play their next three games on the road – Sunday at Boston College, Wednesday the 19th and Saturday the 22nd at Virginia. Notre Dame is still winless in six true road games this season. That includes an 0-5 mark in ACC play.

(High) Minutemen

Irish guards Eric Atkins and Pat Connaughton have been Notre Dame’s ironmen this season, especially since the team lost Jerian Grant for the season in December. Both played all 45 minutes of the Feb. 1 overtime win over Boston College and they each played all 40 minutes two days later in a 61-55 loss at No. 1 Syracuse two days later.

Atkins leads the ACC with 37.5 minutes per game (900 total) in 24 games this season. Connaughton is third in the conference with an average of 36.5 minutes per game (876 total). They played 38 and 39 minutes, respectively, in Saturday’s 73-62 loss to North Carolina. Atkins is averaging 14.0 points, while Connaughton is right behind him at 13.1 points per game this season.

Atkins leads the Irish with 14.9 points per game in 11 ACC games. His 2.35 career assist-to-turnover ratio ranks fifth among active Division I players. Connaughton is averaging 12.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in ACC action. His 26 3-pointers in 11 ACC games are the sixth-most in the conference.

About sean stires