ACC/BIG Ten Challenge
Clemson (5-2) at Rutgers (3-3)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, New Jersey (8,000 Capacity) - SOLD OUT
Tip-off: Tuesday, November 30 at 9:00 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2 - Kevin Brown and John Crispin
Stream: ESPN App
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers - No. 93, one spot worse following a 85-83 loss to UMass; Clemson - No. 45, the same spot following a 91-59 win over Charleston Southern.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 103.2 (132nd) Defense 95.0 (59th); Clemson - Offense 108.6 (52nd) Defense 94.1 (51st)
KenPom Prediction: Clemson 64 Rutgers 63. Rutgers is given a 47% chance to win.
Vegas Line: Rutgers -2 (line opened at Clemson -1.5)
Series History: Rutgers leads the all-time series 2-1 with the last meeting coming last March with RU winning 60-56 in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
ACC/Big Ten Challenge History: Rutgers is 3-4 all-time conference series but won last year’s meeting against Syracuse at the RAC by the score of 79-69.
The Tigers have improved 14 spots in KenPom since the beginning of the season. Head coach Brad Brownell returns three key players from last season’s NCAA team in guards Nick Honor, Al-Amir Dawes and Hunter Tyson. They are filling bigger roles this season along with two new contributors.
The leading scorer for Clemson so far this season is former Top 100 recruit and 6’10” sophomore PJ Hall. The big man is averaging 13.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.0 block per game.
The 5’10” Honor is just one of two power five players to currently be shooting better than 55% from the floor, more than 50% from three-point range as well as having 30+ assists. He is averaging 12.4 points and 4.3 assists per game. The 6’2” Dawes, a Newark, NJ native, is averaging 12.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest. The 6’8” Tyson is more than doubling his career scoring average with 11.7 points per game, as well as 5.6 rebounds per game. The fifth starter is South Florida transfer David Collins and the 6’5’ senior is posting 9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
Key contributors off the bench are 6’6” Naz Bohannon (4.3 points, 3.7 rebounds), 6’4” Alex Hemenway (4.2 points, 2.0 rebounds) and 6’4” Chase Hunter (3.3 points, 1.9 rebounds).
The biggest difference with this team compared to when Rutgers met them in the NCAA Tournament is they are third nationally in shooting 44.1% from three-point range. Last season, they shot just 34.5% and the improvement is due to six players on this team having the ability to make shots from behind the arc.
Honor is 15 of 30 for 50%, Dawes is 19 of 39 for 48.7%, Hall is 9 of 19 for 47.4%, Hemenway is 5 of 12 for 41.7%, Tyson is 9 of 24 for 37.5% and Collins is 3 of 9 for 37.5%.
Clemson is a good shooting team overall, as they are 8th nationally with a 58.8% effective field goal percentage as well as shooting 54.3% from two-point range.
They are also holding opponents to just 43.7% in effective field goal percentage, including 29.3% from three-point range and 43.6% from two-point range.
Steve Pikiell Quotes
“Clemson is an outstanding defensive team. UMass wants to play those games in the 90s and Clemson is comfortable playing those games in the 50s. You have to get out and take something easy in you can get it. It’s going to be a war.”
“We go from the UMass game to a completely different style in Clemson. You got to get ready for a completely different team in two days. We had 11-of-12 stops on defense in the game against Merrimack. The other night we gave up 11 scores in 12 possessions. What team do we want to be? We have shown signs that we can be great defensively.”
“I am looking forward to the test that we have against Clemson. I am looking forward to our young guys continuing to take steps and getting them ready for the Big Ten schedule that is right around the corner.”
Keys To Victory
This one is pretty simple and the biggest key is something that Rutgers has struggled mightily with. Clemson is shooting lights out from three-point range and the Scarlet Knights have been a poor job in defending the perimeter. They’ve continually failed to close out on shooters and because of it have suffered three consecutive losses due to a dagger three-pointer in the closing seconds. In addition, they’ve inexplicably fouled shooter on six three-point attempts over the last two games.
Clemson is 5-0 this season when shooting 40% or better from behind the arc and 0-2 when they don’t. Whether it’s a lack of discipline and awareness on rotating defensively to defend the arc or a lack of foot speed in rotating, Rutgers has to do a better job against the Tigers along the perimeter.
The bottom line is Rutgers has yet to put together a good performance for 40 minutes this season. They had their best offensive performance against UMASS by pounding the paint and attacking the rim. They also showed more urgency in getting out in transition. The ball movement was much better as well. RU also held a +12 rebounding margin. All of those things need to continue tonight, but to be paired with a strong defensive effort as well.
Asserting Cliff Omoruyi early on and keeping him out of foul trouble is crucial. Taking good shots in the flow of the offense is as well. Clemson doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, but Rutgers can’t afford to waste possessions as they are at a disadvantage against a strong three-point shooting team. Crashing the offensive glass and taking advantage of second chance scoring opportunities is key as well. Getting to the line for free throws is important too.
Caleb McConnell had the most clutch game of his career against Clemson in the NCAAs last March, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He played much better against UMass and a second straight strong performance would be a welcomed development.
For the seventh game of the season, I selected “Quick Escape” from Pearl Jam’s latest album Gigaton. I went back to the PJ well for a song because I love this song and its appropriate with the plight of Rutgers.
This is a total gut check game for the program. They are on the brink of no return with Clemson, Illinois, Purdue and Seton Hall ahead in their next four games. The climb back up the hill has to start tonight against a winnable but quality opponent. I really believe a major part of the this team’s struggles have been mental as they are making mistakes a veteran team should not. Things like better defensive rotations and closing out on shooters is correctable. Perhaps seeing Clemson as the opponent will rekindle the fire they play with last March with it all on the line.
If Rutgers was struggling in part due to playing down to its competition, that could result in a better performance tonight. They need a quick escape to get out of the severe hole they’ve dug themselves so far this season. A vintage defensive effort with unselfish play on the offensive end would go a long way towards getting a much needed victory.