The Aggressive C.J. Leslie
The first half did not go well for the Leslie, as he settled for a few outside shots and turned the ball over trying to do too much for the Pack. But whatever discussion he had with Mark Gottfried at the half seemed to transform him. The Pack started the second half by immediately going to Leslie, who scored on a put-back lay-up and that basket seemed to propel him for the rest of the game.
Discounting his two last-second 3-point tries, the product of necessity much more than the offensive game plan, Leslie only took one jump shot after halftime. He scored 13 of his 18 points in the last 25 minutes by attacking the rim and getting to the line. It was the second game in a row where Leslie has taken advantage of his greatest strengths – quickness and pure athleticism – to dominate. If the Pack can keep this version of Leslie around for another year, he will become one of the most dangerous players in the ACC.
Free Throw Shooting
Five for 13. Five makes in 13 tries. That's 38 percent shooting on a shot that's called ‘free' for a reason – it's supposed to be easier than 5-for-13. Forget everything else - the Pack lost this game at the free-throw line.
While no one shot well from the line on Saturday - Leslie his just 4-of-8 free throws and was the only person to go to the line more than once – two trips will likely stick in the minds of Pack fans. CJ Williams trip with 17 seconds left in regulation where he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 – if he makes both of those the game is over. The second is Lorenzo Brown's trip with 44 seconds left in overtime, where he missed two to keep the game tied at 69. If he makes those, then Young's 3-pointer on the ensuing play gives Clemson just a one-point lead and the Pack has a lot more options in the final 11 seconds.
The Little Differences that Matter
Everything gets magnified when a game comes down to the final possession – not once, but twice. Minor plays that normally wouldn't cost you a game become glaring opportunities lost.
Scott Wood and Williams both missed wide open 3-pointers late in the game, Wood's miss with five minutes left in regulation would have ensured overtime never. Williams' miss in overtime would have put the Pack up by six and essentially ended the game with just 90 seconds remaining. The Pack finished just 4-of-16 from behind the arc while Clemson finished 6-of-20 – not a major difference but the last two 3s by Clemson won them the game.
Or look at the turnover column - the Pack forced seven turnovers in the first 20 minutes of action on Saturday, and then forced just five over the final 25 minutes. While losing the turnover battle 13-12 isn't a large gap, the inability to create turnovers late was costly. It's no coincidence that the Pack's final lead was created off a steal and dunk by Lorenzo Brown.
Call it not knowing how to win. Call it bad luck. However you choose to label the minor differences that separated a win from a loss on Saturday, then end result is the same – the Pack now needs a miracle to hear its name on Selection Sunday.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Lorenzo Brown put up an impressive line on Saturday; one that surely would have been more noticeable had it not come in such a disappointing loss. The sophomore point guard shot over 50 percent from the field – including 40 percent from behind the arc – on the way to 18 points for the Pack. He also collected seven rebounds, dished out six assists and had two steals. Yes, he had five turnovers, but there was a lot more positives to his game than negatives against Clemson.
"We got better in a lot of areas, but the final score hurts. We certainly could have left out of here feeling pretty good."