Clemson had a 20 point lead on Oakland early in the second half of its NIT opener at Littlejohn Coliseum Tuesday night. From that point forward, everything the Tigers did well to build the lead went out the window in a 74-69 loss.
Brad Brownell said he just couldn’t get his guys to play with the same energy in the second half. The Tigers allowed nine offensive rebounds and 16 second chance points in the second half and that keyed the Golden Grizzlies comeback.
The Tigers couldn’t deal with Oakland’s renewed defensive effort in the second half either making just eight shots and shooting 26.7% while going thru long scoreless stretches. And the Tigers couldn’t keep up their defensive pressure that forced 11 first half turnovers. They forced only five in the second half.
A 20 point lead with 17:36 to play was cut to ten in six minutes. Four minutes later the Grizzlies tied the game at 61. And once they took a 63-61, they never gave the lead back and stretched it to 71-63.
And Oakland pulled off the comeback without their best player, Jalen Hayes, who hit his face on the floor late in the first half and didn’t return.
In his final game in a Clemson uniform, the Tigers’ best player, Jaron Blossomgame, went out in style with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Clemson was hurt by a lack of production from Marcquise Reed who went 2-10 for five points, Avry Holmes who was 1-6 for three points and Elijah Thomas who managed only two points and two rebounds while limited to nine minutes due to foul trouble.
The Tigers finish a disappointing season at 17-16. Brownell has expressed confidence that his job is secure and he will return for an eighth season. With only one NCAA Tournament appearance to show for his tenure, there’s little doubt next season will be do or die for the Brownell Era of Tiger basketball.
Brad Brownell breaks down the loss
Jaron Blossomgame on his final game at Clemson