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Clemson eviscerates Florida State’s defense, destroys the ‘Noles in Littlejohn

FSU tapped out early in this one.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Two and a half weeks ago Florida State was in prime position to upset the then first place in the conference Clemson Tigers in the Tucker Center, leading much of the second half before snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with an atrociously bad late-game foul execution. This time there was no cause for heartbreak, as Florida State never even bothered to show up. Clemson took a commanding lead minutes into the game and never looked back, smashing the Seminoles 94 to 54.

First Half:

With emerging sophomore star Matthew Cleveland sidelined for this one, freshman Baba Miller drew the first start of his Florida State career. Miller joined the usual suspects of Jalen Warley, Calib Mills, Darin Green, Jr and Cameron Corhen to tip off the game. After Clemson took a 2-0 lead, Corhen hit a nice three to give FSU an early lead. It did not last.

Clemson ripped off the next 14 points, surging out to a 16-3 lead and carving up the FSU “defense” at will. PJ Hall did the most damage during the stretch, but the Tigers outclassed Florida State all over the court. When FSU called a timeout with less than 5 minutes elapsed, Clemson was 6-7 from the field and scoring 2.28 points per possession. FSU, on the other hand, had double the number of missed shots and turnovers as they did points.

Corhen finally stopped the bleeding at the 14:15 mark with his second three-pointer of the game, this time off a feed from Warley. But it wasn’t a momentum-shifter, merely just a temporary reprieve. The Seminoles committed turnover upon turnover, including Naheem McLeod turning it over less than 20 seconds after checking into the game at the 12:38 mark, and Clemson took advantage. Halfway through the first half Florida State was turning the ball over on nearly 40% of their possessions and predictably found themselves trailing 24-10.

The next stretch was more of the same. Florida State’s defensive scheme and execution offering little resistance to the Tigers and Florida State’s offense making a shot here or there when not turning it over. At the under-8 media timeout, Clemson’s lead had grown to 17 points, at 29-12.

Coming out of the timeout, Warley split a pair at the line and then Corhen grabbed his second steal of the game to give Mills a transition layup, trimming the lead to 29-15. But just like earlier, this was no momentum shift. It’s hard to grab momentum when you don’t appear to actually care about winning the game (that goes for staff and players). Two Clemson mini-runs later, one 7-0 and one 5-0, and the ‘Noles found themselves down 41-18 with a bit more than three minutes before halftime.

FSU managed to show a little bit of heart in the final minutes of the first half, running a couple of nice sets on offense to get Warley and thunderous ally-oop on a pretty pass by Mills from the top of the key, and then a lightning quick curl and release on a three by Green. Defensively wasn’t much different, but at least Clemson missed a couple shots, including a dunk attempt. A long jumper by De’Ante Green cut the lead back to 19, but two free throws allowed Clemson to go into the locker room up 21, 47-26. The 47 first half points represented a season-high for the Tigers.

In what has become a common theme this season, Florida State gave up nearly half a hundred in the first half largely because they simply cannot execute a defense that causes any disruption to the opposing team’s offense. Chase Hunter shot 6-7 from the field in the first half, while Hall went 5-5. Overall, Clemson got whatever they wanted in terms of open looks and shot 18-30 from the field as a team, scoring 1.51 points per possession. FSU’s defense forced a turnover on only 9.7% of Clemson possessions.

At the other end, Florida State didn’t shoot it that poorly, finishing the half 10-22 from the field and 3-6 from deep. But when you turn it over on a quarter of your possessions, it’s hard to keep up with a team facing little resistance.

Second Half:

The second stanza began with an FSU turnover followed by a Clemson made three, because why change things up? Miller hit a couple of threes for FSU over the next few minutes, showing off the kind of range that will allow him to play professional basketball sooner rather than later, but FSU’s defense simply could not get stops. By the under-16 media timeout, Clemson’s lead had grown to 26, 60-34.

The Clemson onslaught continued as the Tigers’ next five baskets were all made threes, and all open shots against a discombobulated FSU defense. When they finally made a non-three, it was an easy dunk by Ben Middlebrooks to put Clemson up 74-42 with over 9 minutes left in the game.

Perhaps with an awareness of their poor computer metrics and bubblicious status, Clemson kept their foot on the gas. Their 11th and 12th made threes of the game pushed lead out to 38 and then it crossed the 40 point mark on a jumper by Dillon Hunter.

As if you weren’t aware of this already, the game was over except for determining the final score. Aside from Chandler Jackson’s 1-6 performance, FSU really didn’t shoot that poorly in this one. But they really did nothing to create stops on defense, only occasionally benefitting from Clemson missing open looks, and on top of that the Seminoles turned it over more than 20% of their possessions. There’s simply no way you can win basketball games with abysmal defense and lots of turnovers.

Box Score and Takeaways:

— What is there really to say? FSU’s defense cannot create disruption and the coaches don’t seem inclined to try something else. My biggest concern at this point is all this losing becoming a learned skill. Winning is a skill and so is losing. Coaches love to talk about having older, experienced players, but what if those players have no idea what kind of tenacity, consistency, and selflessness is required to win at this level?

— Cameron Corhen continues to display nice touch on his jumper. He reminds me of a young cross between Alexander Johnson and Al Thornton in terms of skill-set. Not as bouncy as Thornton, but better jump shot than AJ. I really hope we see him in Tallahassee next season.

Up Next:

If you’ve made it this far—in the article and the season—kudos. You are either a true fan or a glutton for punishment and visual pain. Your next chance to see the Seminoles in action comes Saturday afternoon in the Tucker Center against the Boston College Eagles. Can’t wait.