Clemson can't get back on defense

ATLANTA — For the fourth time in the last five games the Clemson Tigers found enough offense to score more than 75 points. However, for the fourth time in five games, they walked away a loser.

Though the 17th-ranked Tigers' offense did not look like a thing of beauty at times in their 86-81 loss to Georgia Tech in the first round of the ACC Tournament, they still managed to put up 81 points on the scoreboard. In most cases, that would be more than enough points for an Oliver Purnell coached basketball team to win, but that's not the case anymore.

"We need to play better on the defensive end to be able to beat teams at this level," the Clemson coach said. "We gave them far too many offensive rebounds and layups. As a result, they shot too high of a percentage."

The Yellow Jackets (12-18) shot 55.7 percent for the game, most of that coming off easy layups and dunks as Clemson failed to get back in transition.

"You can put up 80 points on offense, but you have to come down and make stops," Clemson's David Potter said. "We'd come down and hit a three, but yet we come down and give up a three at the other end.

"We are not talking enough on defense and we are not playing hard."

And consequently, the Tigers (23-8) found themselves out of the first-round of the ACC Tournament for the 42nd time in the 56-year history of the event. Clemson is also starting to lose its confidence as it heads into next week's NCAA Tournament.

"Our confidence level is not that high, and that was proven here today," Clemson senior K.C. Rivers said. "We have to get that confidence back. Everything we do from here on out is going to be important and is going to help us win.

"It seemed like we are not confident in what we are doing."

Especially on defense.

"On defense we have to pick it up," Rivers said. "We have to start picking it up on the defensive end. People were talking about our press and how fresh we were as a half court defensive team, but now people don't even think about our defense anymore.

"We have to get back to playing defense and get back to playing with a defensive mentality."

Either do it soon or the season is soon to be over.

GRANT GETS THE START: Other than senior night, Clemson started a different lineup for the first time this season. Sophomore Jerai Grant got the start over Raymond Sykes due to his two previous performances against the Yellow Jackets in the regular season. Grant finished the game with just 2 points and 3 rebounds in 9 minutes on Thursday. Obviously, not the same results.

THE TREND CONTINUES: Georgia Tech was the fourth 12th seed in the tournament history of the ACC to win in the first round. This is the seventh time the ACC Tournament has had a 12-team field.

NOT NIGHT: Lewis Clinch's 32 points against Clemson were the third most by a Yellow Jacket player in the ACC Tournament. It was also a career high for the senior guard.

NO BLOCKS: The Tigers failed to block a shot in the ACC Tournament for the first time since 1996. Clemson blocked 18 shots in three tournament games last year, including 10 in the championship game – a championship game record.

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