Hey, you Clemson fans, all focused on that big football game going down in the desert on Monday night? Yeah, your hoops team is suddenly something to watch in the ACC. Just wanted to let you know, because it earned an ugly-yet-satisfying home win on Sunday against No. 16 Louisville, marking the most impressive win to date this season for Brad Brownell’s team.
The flip side of Sunday’s outcome in Clemson: Teams can’t be expected to win all their intra-conference road games, but Louisville just put on a really odd performance against the 10-6, unranked Tigers. Clemson held the Cardinals to their lowest point total of the season in defeating Louisville 66-62. (The game was not as close as the final score indicated, either.)
The Cards average 83.2 points, yet shot 35 percent, only made 3 of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc and looked as out of sorts as they have all season. The Tigers entered the day ranked 127th in points-per-possession defense, yet you’d never have known it seeing the way they stood up against Rick Pitino’s team. Also alarming: Clemson won with some ease despite shooting 32.6 percent.
Louisville is now 13-3, and might well still be ranked 24 hours from when this story is posted and the new polls are out, but for a team that’s still got some doubters, this loss could linger for a bit.
Louisville did get a road win against slumping NC State on Thursday, so let’s credit the Cards for splitting a road trip — almost any coach in any situation will take a split in a back-to-back scenario — but in the big picture, this is Louisville’s reality: it’s 1-3 against the four best teams it’s played this season.
Brad Brownell’s team now has to feel pretty confident. This was Clemson’s best win of the season so far, surely, and the three-game winning streak it’s built has the team at 3-1 in the ACC with wins over Syracuse and Florida State. Clemson’s next two games come at home against arguably the two best teams in the conference. If it can get a home split against Duke and Miami, we’ll suddenly start seeing this team as an NCAA Tournament contender.
And with 14-1 Pitt coming to town on Thursday, Louisville has an interesting test ahead. A loss there, and who knows what we’ll make of Pitino’s team at that point.