ACC Basketball

Clemson holds off the Yellow Jackets

Previewing this match up, I said it would be a battle between one team’s star vs. the other team’s star. In this case, Clemson’s K.J. McDaniel vs. Tech’s Robert Carter Jr., and even though McDaniel was the All-ACC first-teamer and the defensive player of the year, I felt like it was Carter who would be the difference-maker in the game.

I guess technically I was right. Carter was the difference, however, the difference he made cost his team a victory. The Yellow Jackets sophomore play a mind-numbing type of game, take bad shot after bad shot. Clearly, before the game someone close to him must have convinced him that he was Mark Price, because he took six threes (hitting just one), including twice bad ones during the final three minutes of regulation with his team down two and going through a six-minute span without a bucket.

At some point, the ESPN analyst said that Carter was “playing soft,” and he couldn’t be more right. He did manage nine boards, which is great, but he typically shied away from contact when shooting, settling for fade aways. He finished with just 13 points on 5-21 shooting.

Of course, if it wasn’t for Landry Nnoka’s defense (six blocks, Clemson had nine total) and some late-game heroics by Damarcus Harrison (he scored six points in the final 0:53 seconds of overtime), we’d be speaking ill of K.J. McDaniel. He never looked quite right, forcing up bad shots after some early misses. He hit just 4-15 from the floor (going 24+ minutes without a basket at one point, but made up for it with 10-11 from the free throw line.

Georgia Tech seniors Trae Golden and Daniel Miller both did their best to extend their careers. Trae Golden scored seven of Tech’s last 11 points, while Daniel Miller tied it up with under a second to go with a nice put back.

Note: Was I the only person who noticed that Miller was also found on that final shot and it should have been an ‘and-one?’ Of course, there isn’t a ref in the world who would make that call right then.

In the end though, it was Clemson who prevailed simply because they looked like a team that’s been in this situation before. In fact, they’ve been there a lot. ¬†This was the 10th game out of their last 11 that was decided by five points or less and four of them ended up in overtime.

With the loss, Georgia Tech’s season is done. they will lose Golden and Miller, as well as Kammeon Holsey, but both Robert Carter Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will be back for their junior seasons, giving the Yellow Jackets hope for the future.

Clemson gets to 20 wins and will have one more shot at the Duke Blue Devils (i.e. a signature win) and another chance to impress the NCAA Tournament Committee. The last time these two faced off, Clemson beat the Blue Devils at home, 72-59.

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