No.18 Clemson looks to rebound at Georgia Tech Sunday
ATLANTA, GA (ESPN) — The first game for Clemson without senior forward Donte Grantham was as hard to watch Tuesday as his season-ending knee injury in the previous game for the No. 18 Tigers.
After Grantham’s college career came to an end last week against Notre Dame with the injury, Clemson lost 61-36 at No. 2 Virginia.
The Tigers will attempt Sunday to bounce back at Georgia Tech (10-10, 3-4 ACC), which is struggling itself with a three-game losing streak.
In the humbling loss to Virginia, the Tigers (16-4, 5-3) missed Grantham’s leadership on the court and his production of 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds a game while making a career-best 56 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent from 3-point range.
The Tigers had only one player score in double figures against the Cavaliers — senior guard Gabe DeVoe with 11 points — while freshman forward Aamir Simms scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in his first career start at Clemson in place of Grantham.
Clemson fell apart after taking a 23-16 lead — the largest deficit for Virginia in conference play this season.
“At the end of the day, we have to figure out a way to play without (Grantham), and we’re working on doing that,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We’ve got to make some other adjustments and so some other things to counteract it, and I’ve got to figure some things out, but we’ll work through that in the next month and a half.”
Simms could emerge as a player who can help Brownell down the stretch. He had his good moments and bad against Virginia. He scored seven points when Clemson took its 23-16 lead but he had only one offensive rebound and turned the ball over three times afterward.
“I thought Aamir Simms did some good things for us today,” Brownell said. “For a freshman in there battling, he played as well as anybody.”
Clemson is the third consecutive ranked team to face Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have lost to No. 2 Virginia and No. 15 North Carolina in addition to Florida State during their slide.
In the 88-77 loss at Florida State on Wednesday, Georgia Tech was led by guard Jose Alvarado with 23 points, followed by 16 points from fellow guard Josh Okogie, who also had a career-high 16 rebounds and dished out five assists.
Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner is mostly concerned with his team’s defense despite the fact the Yellow Jackets are ranked second in the ACC in scoring defense, holding opponents to 62.2 points per game in conference play. They have allowed 80 or more in consecutive games.
“You talk about five guys have to guard the basketball; it can’t be one guy,” Pastner said. “We’ve got to have the floor shrunk and compact and the opponent has to see bodies. Tonight, we were leaving guys on an island and that’s just bad defense.
“Of all our games this year, this is the one game where we were very individualized defensively. I felt we didn’t shrink the floor, five guys weren’t guarding the basketball and that’s what happens.”
Promising for the Yellow Jackets: Georgia Tech is 5-2 under Pastner at home against ranked teams. The game is a sellout.