Clemson’s defense hasn’t shown the same characteristics this year as some of Brad Brownell’s teams of the past.
He understands former standout and current NBA pro K.J. McDaniels isn’t around to protect the rim and defend passing lanes anymore, but the Tigers (8-5, 0-1 ACC) have another problem that’s affecting defense: offense.
“I think we’re more in transition (as a team) because we’re not efficient on offense,” Brownell said during Monday’s ACC teleconference. “We weren’t a great offensive team last year, but we did manage the game well.”
The Tigers begin a difficult three-game road stretch with No. 5 Louisville on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ranked last in the ACC with 65.2 points per game and a 42.5 shooting percentage. The team’s 3-point shooting (28 percent) is third-worst in the conference.
“I think we’re a better shooting team than our stats (show),” Brownell said. “That’s really not the case. You are what your stats say you are, but I think we can shoot the ball better. We’re just struggling a little bit.”
After starting the year scoring 86, 74 and 70 in their first three games, the Tigers have reached 70 points in two of the last 10 contests.
Brownell, who wants his team to score more in the paint, said too many droughts have put pressure on his team in certain games. Last Saturday was one of those contests.
The Tigers shot 18 percent from the field in the first half against No. 18 North Carolina and had 17 points at halftime. It was too much to overcome in a 74-50 loss.
“We couldn’t buy a shot in the first half,” said Clemson sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame, who is averaging a team-leading 13.6 points per game and has scored in double figures in all but one game. “We were getting good looks, but we just couldn’t knock them down.”
Brownell says that’s been the major issue this season for a young team. Freshman Donte Grantham is averaging 10.2 points per game, but it’s coming at the expense of a lot of shots. He’s making 41 percent of his field goals and has hit on 16 of his 66 3-point attempts.
“I think he’s still kind of a young player, so he’s still trying to feel some things out,” Brownell said.
Getting offense from upperclassmen hasn’t been consistent either. Junior center Landry Nnoko was averaging double figures, but he has scored 30 total points in the past five games.
Senior guards Damarcus Harrison and Rod Hall are averaging 11.0 and 9.1, respectively, per game. Harrison has given the team big lifts at times with his outside shooting. Hall was doing that early in the season but has since become more of a distributor.
Junior Jordan Roper from Irmo was expected to make an impact as the sixth man with his outside shooting after he averaged 7.4 points per game last year. But the Columbia guard is putting up 3.9 points and shooting 25.8 percent from the field and 13.8 percent from the 3-point line.
“He’s a guy that can make some shots off the bench that hasn’t gotten going at all,” Brownell said. “It’s been a little bit problematic. We’ve got to be more efficient in our offense. Our screens have got to be better to get better looks, and we’ve got to get better in transition.”