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Tigers Lose to YellowJackets: Clemson’s Chances of Making NCAA Tournament Disappear

Savannah N. Miller, Photo Editor
Senior center Landry Nnoko (33) attempts a free throw during a home game. Nnoko has made 63 percent of his free throws this season. 

For the second time in less than two weeks, the Clemson Tigers squared off against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Tuesday night. 

Like the earlier matchup, the Feb. 23 game was a virtual must-win for the Tigers in terms of keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Georgia Tech won Tuesday night’s battle 75-73, all but popping Clemson’s March Madness bubble. 

Continuing the trend of the past month, forward Jaron Blossomgame was Clemson’s lone star in the game, leading the Tigers in scoring with 22 points. 

The leading scorer of the night, however, was Georgia Tech guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, who propelled his Yellow Jackets to victory with 25 points. In addition, he secured the win by sinking two clutch free throws in the game’s

final seconds. 

Clemson has now lost four of its last six games, a devastating falloff from its successful January run. The inconsistency on both ends of the floor has proved costly in recent weeks, and it devastated the Tigers against the Yellow Jackets.

Leading by nine at halftime, Clemson seemed well on its way to garnering a much-needed road victory against a Georgia Tech team, playing as well as any Atlantic Coast Conference squad. However, the Tigers lost all of their momentum early in the second half, particularly on defense. Georgia Tech made just under 60 percent of their shots in the second half, causing Clemson to look practically innocuous defensively. 

About his team’s defensive woes, Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell told the media, “We just don’t defend like a high-level team.” 

While brief, Brownell’s remark rings true, as the Tigers have been woeful on defense in recent weeks. Tuesday night saw Georges-Hunt attack the rim unmercifully in the second half and face little resistance. 

Another factor in Clemson blowing its halftime lead was the Tigers’ failure to draw fouls. Shooting only five free throws in a hotly contested conference game is inexcusable. It speaks to the lackluster effort of the Tigers against the

Yellow Jackets. 

March is nearly here, and the Tigers are playing as if the season has only just begun. It is mind-boggling how porous the defense — which has been the lone consistent bright spot during Brownell’s tenure — has become. It might be too late in the season to make major improvements. 

As unbelievable as it seems, Clemson has gone from being a potential NCAA Tournament dark horse to being NIT-bound in a mere month.

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