Clemson suffered a heartbreaking 69-67 loss Saturday afternoon at N.C. State, but the Tigers must move on quickly and not let the loss linger and lead to more defeats.
Clemson, a team that started the season ranked in the preseason top 25, is now 1-5 in ACC play and desperately needs a victory when it hosts Pitt at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The Tigers are currently near the bottom of the ACC and are one of four teams with only one win in league play. However, Clemson’s schedule is about to get much easier, beginning Tuesday when it hosts the Panthers (12-8, 2-5). The Tigers then host Wake Forest this weekend and play at Georgia Tech next week before returning home to host Virginia Tech. Clemson has a chance to get back to .500 in ACC play if it can earn four consecutive wins in games that are winnable.
Tigers coach Brad Brownell was pleased for the most part with the way his team played in Raleigh, even if it didn’t result in a win. Clemson needs its strong play to carry over to Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers.
“I thought we played really hard and I don’t know that we played exceptionally well in terms of our offense, but I thought our kids really competed,” Brownell said after the loss at N.C. State. “I thought we were really good defensively. Give credit to State, they just kept hanging in there in the last minute.”
Pitt, under the direction of first-year head coach Jeff Capel, has dropped three consecutive ACC games, losing at Syracuse, against Duke and at Louisville. The Panthers have also lost 18 consecutive road games with their last ACC road win coming in February of 2017.
Still, the Panthers are showing improvement after going winless in the ACC a year ago.
Pittsburgh is led by freshman Xavier Johnson, who averages 16.2 points per game, while Clemson is led by senior Marcquise Reed, who averages 19.3.
Reed has been Clemson’s leading scorer each of the past two years, but he struggled down the stretch against the Wolfpack, missing four consecutive free throws in the final 15 seconds as the Tigers blew six-point leads twice in the final minute.
“He’s an 86 percent free throw shooter. He’s made thousands of free throws for us to win games,” Brownell said. “He’s our best player. It’s just a tough break. I feel bad for him.”
Clemson also needs its pieces to step up around Reid, including senior guard Shelton Mitchell and senior forward Elijah Thomas. The matchup against Pitt is as close as you can get to a must-win for the Tigers in January as they try to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive after reaching the Sweet 16 last year.
Who: Pitt (12-8, 2-5 ACC) at Clemson (11-8, 1-5)
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
Stream online: Watch ESPN
Radio: 1400 AM in Columbia area, 105.5 in Clemson
Series: Clemson leads 4-3
Last meeting: Clemson State won 72-48 on Feb. 8, 2018