Clemson could have made things easier on itself by protecting its home court. Now, if the No. 12 Tigers have any shot at capturing their first-ever ACC title, they’ll have to get some revenge on the road.
On Saturday, Clemson visits Florida State, where they have just two wins in their last 10 visits, looking to avoid another upset by the No. 23 Seminoles.
Clemson (22-5, 8-5) and Florida State (21-7, 8-5) are tied with Wake Forest for third place in the ACC, trailing 9-4 Duke and 10-3 North Carolina. After a 16-0 start, the Tigers have struggled and are just 3-3 since Feb. 7—a slump that began when they lost 65-61 at home to the previously unranked Seminoles.
Clemson began the week with a chance to move closer to the top teams in the conference, but instead lost again at home to an unranked team, falling 80-77 to Virginia Tech on Wednesday.
The Tigers play their final three games against teams that already have beaten them, with two of those losses coming at Littlejohn Coliseum. After this game, they host Virginia, which beat them 85-81 in overtime on Feb. 15, and close the season at Wake Forest, which won 78-68 at Clemson on Jan. 17.
“We need to win all three, that’s the bottom line,” sophomore guard Terrence Oglesby said. “We really need to step up and practice and get better at the little things that we’ve been so good at during our wins this year.”
While the Tigers have responded with wins after their last three losses, they have dropped eight of their last 10 trips to Tallahassee since 1999, including a 64-55 loss there in 2007-08. The two wins in that span have come by a combined four points.
“I’m always confident in this team,” senior K.C. Rivers said. “We’ve show a lot of progression when we lose and then we come back hungry for more.”
To keep their title hopes alive, Rivers and the Tigers can’t afford another second-half offensive meltdown like the one they suffered Wednesday against the Hokies. After taking a three-point lead into halftime, Clemson shot just 36.1 percent after the break. Oglesby finished with 22 points while Trevor Booker, who went 6-of-9 in the first half for 15 points, ended up with 21 on 8-of-18 shooting.
“He didn’t have the half he did in the first, but still took nine shots,” coach Oliver Purnell said of Booker. “He just couldn’t get them to go.”
The Seminoles, meanwhile, are also looking to bounce back from a loss after falling 72-67 to Boston College on Tuesday. Florida State shot 38.6 percent and committed 18 turnovers, but were unable to get any closer than three points in the final six minutes.
“We kept cutting the lead, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel we did the little things that you have to do on the road against a team of this caliber to pull off the victory,” Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Toney Douglas, who is second in the ACC in scoring with 20.5 points per game, had 19 but shot 5-of-16. He also had four turnovers after not having one while playing 112 minutes his previous three games.
Florida State broke into the Top 25 for the second time this season Monday after winning five of its previous six. The Seminoles’ last stint in the rankings, which began after their win over the Tigers, lasted only one week.