Clemson faces its toughest challenge of the young season on Friday, as the Tigers square off with No. 25 Iowa in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla.
The Tigers (4-1) are coming off a recent streak with a 72-41 romp over Loyola-Maryland, giving Brad Brownell’s team three straight wins. The head coach is very pleased with how the Tigers have started the season, but is still looking for a complete game.
“We won the last three,” Brownell said. “I think we’ve played basketball a few times, but we haven’t put together 40 minutes yet.
“I’m proud of the way our guys bounced back. We won two good games here at home, you know better, what we have to do. A game of practice for some guys. … We’re a new team still finding our way.”
Through the first five games, the Tigers were defeated by Chase Hunter. The junior guard averaged a team-high 16.2 points and was blazing from the perimeter, shooting 68.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Clemson is still waiting on veteran big man PJ Hall to return to form, though, as the junior forward is still fighting his way back from an offseason knee injury. Hall has shown flashes of his old self at times and is averaging 10.5 points per game.
“I just think it’s really hard,” Brownell said of Hall. “Because the last visuals of him are incredible at the end of the season and the expectations of him are really high. And I think it’s difficult for him emotionally. I think he wants to do well. Sometimes he rushes a little bit there. He didn’t have as many reps, that’s right and normal.”
The Hawkeyes (4-0) scored on the grapes. Fran McCaffery’s team is averaging 96 points per contest and is shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range. His average margin of victory was 31 points.
Despite the hot start, which included an 83-67 win over Seton Hall, McCaffery’s message was simple. It takes some time for that to happen.
“That’s the only way you can survive for a long time, especially with the schedule that’s in front of us,” McCaffery said. “Everything is going pretty smooth so far. We know it’s not always going to happen. How do you handle adversity? I think a lot of guys have confidence in themselves, as you have confidence in your teammates.”
Junior Kris Murray came out on top in the win over Seton Hall, scoring a high 20 points. He followed that up with a career-high 30-point performance in a 100-64 win over Omaha on Monday. At one point he made 11 consecutive shots.
“Easy buckets, I like the feeling,” Murray said. “He had already sent a bang around, he just had to finish them. So I never had to run, and it was kind of cool just at that moment.”
With the Hawkeyes playing so well, McCaffery has allowed some of the younger players to get more minutes, which he thinks will help with the games coming up back in Florida.
“I think the thing over these first four games has been a lot about getting guys minutes because we’re playing back-to-back games and we need bodies,” McCaffery said. “For the most part, everyone played well. We locked into the game plan and executed the game plan and were critical.”