Life in the Atlantic Coast Conference has been more unpredictable than ever this season — a fact reiterated by Clemson coach Brad Brownell this week.
“There is no bottom,” Brownell told reporters. “I don’t know that there’s anybody in the league that can’t beat anybody else.”
That conclusion was supported once again Wednesday when league-leading Louisville suffered a six-point defeat at Georgia Tech, a team fighting to stay out of the ACC cellar.
Now the fifth-ranked Cardinals (21-4, 12-2) hit the road again to face a Clemson (12-12, 6-8) team coming off a 20-point victory at Pitt. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum, where the Tigers are 9-5 this season, including a 4-3 record in ACC games.
Louisville’s loss at Georgia Tech was the result of what coach Chris Mack termed an “ugly” effort on behalf of his team.
“It was a muddy game,” Mack said. “And we weren’t dirty enough to win.”
Nor accurate enough. The Cardinals shot 33.9 percent from the floor and made only 3 of 24 3-point attempts, allowing Georgia Tech to lead wire to wire.
Louisville junior forward Jordan Nwora — the ACC’s leading scorer — was held to a season-low two points and missed all four of his 3-point shots.
The defeat snapped the Cardinals’ 10-game winning streak and helped Duke (11-2) and Florida State (10-3) maintain contact atop the league standings with six games remaining.
Louisville still holds the tiebreaker against Duke, but now the Blue Devils are within half a game of the Cardinals in the standings.
“The first four minutes we looked like zombies,” Mack said. “We looked like we had no readiness and toughness and excitement to play, and from that point on we were battling uphill the whole game.
“On game night, you are who you are in practice. To sit up here after 21 wins and say it’s a huge issue, I’d be lying. Our guys, for the most part, while not perfect, have answered the challenge and answered the bell. But turnovers have plagued us, especially in the first half, and we have to get that rectified. Our defense hasn’t been great the last three or four games. Those two things have to improve for our team to go as far as we’re capable of going.”
Clemson, meanwhile, is feeling better about itself after snapping a three-game losing streak with the resounding win at Pitt.
The Tigers held Pitt to 31.3 percent shooting while getting a career-best game from freshman guard Al-Amir Dawes, who had 18 points and five assists. Junior forward Aamir Simms, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, also returned to the lineup after missing Sunday’s loss to Notre Dame with the flu and should be at full strength against the Cardinals.
“We needed it to give ourselves a chance to have some sort of chance to play in the top half (of the ACC),” said Brownell, whose team dropped an 80-62 decision at Louisville on Jan. 25. “We needed a win to kind of get our spirits back, but we still have a long way to go and we have some really hard games on our schedule, beginning with Louisville on Saturday.”
–Field Level Media