Tigers sweep homestand, push streak to eight games
One month ago, it seemed the transition into the Brad Brownell era would be tougher than expected for the Clemson basketball program.
Three straight losses had dropped the Tigers' record to 5-4, a mark the program hadn't seen in some time. The streak included an embarrassing performance in a home loss to Michigan, a loss to South Carolina (whom the Tigers had beaten six straight times) and an ACC loss at Florida State.
Any hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament seemed laughable at this point, but an eight-game winning streak has rejuvenated the fan base and proven that the idea of a tourney bid might not be so far-fetched.
After (expectedly) beating Savannah State and UNC-Greensboro at home, Clemson notched an impressive win on the road against a tournament-worthy College of Charleston team.
The Tigers then returned home to win their next five games, capped off by a gut-check win against Miami and a rout of Georgia Tech that pushed their record to 13-4 (2-1 ACC).
The catalyst for Clemson's improvement has undoubtedly been the improved play of senior forward Jerai Grant.
Grant has scored in double figures in ten straight games and has notched double-doubles in three of those contests. He is also shooting 64% from the field and 73% from the free throw line and is averaging 2.6 blocks per game.
Demontez Stitt, who missed two games to recover from knee surgery, is also excelling in his senior season.
Stitt's improved shooting has helped accelerate his offensive game, as he is scoring 13.5 points per game and shooting a career-best 45% from three-point range.
The confidence exuded by these two seniors appears to boost the confidence of their teammates. Devin Booker is now making an impact after being virtually invisible early in the season. Juniors Tanner Smith and Andre Young are shooting the ball well and giving the Tigers more scoring options on the perimeter.
The bench has performed better too, with Milton Jennings and Bryan Narcisse starting to contribute and even former walk-on Zavier Anderson playing important minutes.
Brownell's team seems to be beginning to buy in to his system at both ends of the court as they continue to get better scoring opportunities on offense and create turnovers on defense with relentless on-ball pressure.
While wins over two of the lesser teams in the ACC can only create a certain amount of optimism, the way this team has played and improved is enough to show that the immediate future may be brighter than once expected.