Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Three Things You Need to Know Before No. 8 Miami Takes on Clemson

Jan 12, 2016; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Miami Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga gestures from the bench against the Virginia Cavaliers in the second half at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers won 66-58. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 12, 2016; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Miami Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga gestures from the bench against the Virginia Cavaliers in the second half at John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers won 66-58. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Losses are never easy to take, but in the ACC if you don’t get right up off the mat, those defeats might just start to pile up. For the No. 8 Miami Hurricanes, they better hope they aren’t getting a ten-count come Saturday afternoon.

After a tough loss at No. 13 Virginia on Tuesday night, Miami and Coach Jim Larranaga will have their hands full once again as they head to South Carolina to take on a resurgent Clemson fresh off of wins over Duke and Louisville.

While it’s still early on in conference play, Miami will surely want to get back to their winning ways and climb back to the top of the ACC heap.

With the game just two days away, here are the three things you need to know before 13-2 Miami takes on 11-6 Clemson:

The Tigers have some bad losses on the resume, but it doesn’t matter, they’re on fire right now.

There might not be a team in the country playing better basketball over the last four games than the Clemson Tigers. Consecutive wins over Florida St., Syracuse, No. 16 Louisville and No. 9 Duke have Brad Brownell’s squad near the top of the ACC even though they were picked to finish 12th in the ACC Media Preseason Poll.

Their recent rise is a bit unexpected though, especially because of how they started. Through the first 13 games, Clemson went 7-6, including poor losses to Minnesota, UMass and a home defeat to Alabama. In their last loss of that 13-game stretch though, the Tigers kept it close with North Carolina for most of the game, but fell just a bit short. That’s when things changed.

Led by stingy defense and some impressive performances by Jaron Blossomgame, the Tigers pulled off those four straight victories to move to third in the ACC at the time of writing.

Blossomgame has been Clemson’s star all year averaging 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds a game. The 6-7 forward could pose an interesting matchup decision for the Miami staff who could put either Davon Reed or Kamari Murphy on the junior.

Besides Blossomgame, the Tigers don’t have too many stars, but they do have a solid cast around him that includes four other players with a points per game average above 8.5. One of those players is 6-8 forward Donte Grantham who had 12 points against Louisville and 16 points vs. Duke. The sophomore has a big frame, but is a more of a three-point threat, which is why I’ll be interested to see what defensive matchups Miami prefers.

One last player that is in that bunch but won’t get much attention is 6-10 Landry Nnoko. The center has been a bit inconsistent this season, but the Cameroonian had his best game of the season vs. Duke with 12 points and 13 rebounds. We saw Miami get dominated on the interior against Virginia and if the Canes want to come away from Clemson with a victory, Tonye Jekiri’s battle with Nnoko will be a huge factor.

These players have been crucial to the Tigers’ hot run and if Miami wants to end that stretch, it’ll be important to shutdown that Clemson trio. If not Coach Brownell’s squad might add another scalp to their already impressive resume.

Clemson haven’t been friendly hosts to the Canes of late.

Miami’s last trip to Clemson wasn’t a pleasant one as they fell 58-54 to the Tigers in March of 2014. “That team was rebuilding though” people might argue. Well, the best team in Miami’s recent history in 2012-13 narrowly escaped defeat against Clemson in February of 2013 with a 45-43 victory. Trust me, this is a hard place to play.

Luckily for the Hurricanes, this season’s team will avoid having to play at the raucous Littlejohn Coliseum as Clemson’s permanent arena is undergoing a renovation. But even at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, other opponents like Louisville and Duke haven’t fared much better.

If the Hurricanes can get out to an early lead and dash any hopes of another upset in the first half, they may be able to take the Clemson crowd out of the game. Against Virginia, Miami’s slow start allowed the Cavalier faithful to stay in the game when an early run could have planted a seed early that they would likely drop their third straight game.

The Tigers are 9-2 at home this season and besides their loss to Alabama, the only other defeat came from undefeated South Carolina. This may not be a place like Cameron Indoor or the Dean Smith Center, but Miami will certainly have to be prepared for a tough and electric atmosphere come Saturday afternoon.

Miami has had some offensive struggles, but Clemson won’t be the best place to solve those.

In the first 11 games the season, the Miami Hurricanes scored at least 85 points eight times. In the next four games though, they’ve scored over 75 just once.The Canes are in a bit of on offensive drought, let’s face it.

While they have won three of those four games, Miami has averaged just 24.7 points in the first half and have needed Sheldon McClellan or Ja’Quan Newton to bail the team out with unreal second half performances. As we saw against Virginia, when you come against better teams, that formula just isn’t sustainable.

Now going into their game against Clemson, things won’t get any easier. The Tigers have allowed just 62.2 points a game this season and currently come in at No. 16 in total scoring defense in the country.

Miami has to figure out a way to get someone on their bench going besides Ja’Quan Newton because the only production coming from the reserves recently has been a few threes from Ivan Cruz Uceda.

If the Canes are only getting reliable scoring from two players, that is an issue and if they don’t figure it out before Saturday, Miami may find themselves back on the mat and in the midst of a two-game losing streak.