Anatomy Of A Meltdown
The following are notes I scribbled re-watching "The Meltdown"—from about 6:00 remaining in the first half, when the Pack enjoyed a 31-12 lead, until the game was well in Clemson's favor.
Admittedly, I went into this focusing solely on CJ Leslie and his miscues, but it was clear he was not the only guilty party. You could say, though, he was the grossest offender.
- 5:52 left in the first – CJ Leslie is in position for an easy rebound but mistimes his jump. The ball squirts out of his hands out of bounds. Bryan Narcisse gets an easy dunk on the ensuing possession due to weak help defense from Tracy Smith. 31-14
- 5:19, CJ cheats off his man Milton Jennings to assist Ryan Harrow guarding Andre Young at the foul line. Young hits an open Jennings with a pass and Leslie is too late to recover, Jennings drains the three. Timeout, Sidney Lowe, 2nd of the half. 31-17
- 4:26, CJ loses track of Jennings while trying to rebound. This is a common theme the rest of the night.
- 3:59, CJ wanders away from Jennings again, trying to assist underneath the basket. A shot goes up and Jennings, unchecked by Leslie, grabs the rebound. Leslie reaches in and fouls Jennings on his put-back attempt, and Jennings hits 1-of-2 at the line. 32-18
- 3:28, while guarding Jerai Grant, weakly contests a 12-footer. His feet never leave the court as Grant makes it easily. 32-20
- 2:35, CJ jacks up an ill-advised three with over 20 seconds remaining on the shot clock. The team is slow to recover down court and surrenders an easy two. Sidney calls his third timeout of the first half and mercifully benches Leslie. 32-25
- 0:35, Lazy passing leads to a breakaway dunk from Bryan Narcisse.
- With under four seconds, State converts an out-of-bounds play as Tracy Smith scores at the buzzer. 34-29
- 2ND HALF, yay! Starting lineup back on the court.
- Tracy Smith the worst offender among many parties of setting weak screen after weak screen. The point guard can't get any separation because Smith, others are peeling off their screens too early. The point guards aren't doing the screeners any favors as the refuse to utilize the screen properly.
- Some stuff happens. Scott Wood hits two big threes to push the lead back to nine, 40-31.
- 14:41, CJ Leslie re-enters the game.
- 13:31, CJ misses an easy put-back bucket off a Tracy Smith miss because he tries to tap it in with one hand instead of catching it with two. On the ensuing Clemson possession, he trips over Jennings' feet in the lane and can't contest an Andre Young layup in the lane. 40-37
- A flurry of two nice plays, one from Javi and one from Lorenzo Brown, help push State's lead back to 7, 44-37
- 12:02, Javi tries to buy a charge but his acting job takes him completely out of the play. Scott Wood rotates over to cover Javi's man just inside the arc but leaves Narcisse wide open. Narcisse receives the pass and drains a wide-open 3. 44-40
- 11:28, A turn of events occur where CJ might've been sparked positively. He makes an aggressive move to the basket, is fouled and makes an off-balance shot. The refs, however, say he was fouled prior to the act of shooting, so instead of two points and a foul shot, State merely retains the ball. On that possession, he takes another ill-advised shot, a contested two from the wing that misses everything. 44-40
- 9:58, CJ is still firing away, clanging an open 17-footer. Perhaps that's an ok shot if he's playing well, but given the circumstances it's yet another a bad shot.
- 9:21, the shot that breaks State's will. The Pack play 33 seconds of solid defense, but CJ loses Jennings—again—and with 2 on the shot clock, Jennings hits an open three. State still leads 44-43, but the game is all but over at this point. You could see the fight leave the team after that demoralizing sequence of events.
- 7:57, Leslie receives the pass in the interior while posted up on the block. Instead of being aggressive, he passes the ball three feet to Tracy Smith who's currently fending off a double team. Tracy does get fouled, however, and makes both attempts, 48-43
- 7:42, CJ loses sight of Jennings again. While wandering the lane with his head turned, searching for his mark, Demontez Stitt drives right past him to the bucket for a layup. CJ never so much as swats at the ball. 48-45
- 7:06, a great post move frees up CJ and he has a wide open layup…that he misses. 48-45
- 6:55, CJ allows Jennings to wander back out around the three-point arc. As Booker flashes through the lane, CJ inexplicably chases him, leaving Jennings with another wide-open 3. Thankfully for Leslie, he misses this attempt. Still 48-45.
- 6:35, CJ receives a pass from Tracy Smith at the bucket. Instead of going up strong, he pump fakes once and has the ball swatted from his hands. 48-45
- 6:23, on the resulting Clemson possession, CJ commits the cardinal sin of trying to save the ball on your opponent's end of the court. He tosses it right to Stitt, who promptly converts a layup. Sidney FINALLY pulls the plug on CJ after that. 48-47
- 5:41, Jerai Grant is fouled and makes the bucket. He hits the free throw and gives Clemson the lead it would never relinquish, 50-48
- More bad stuff.
- 2:52, Javier Gonzalez misses a nice look off an in-bounds play, but instead of hustling back down court, he and the rest of the team jog in back, unaware that Devin Booker has beaten everyone. Young hits him with an easy full-court pass for an easy layup…and that's pretty much where I stopped watching the replay.
CJ Leslie finished the game with only 13 minutes logged on the boxscore but they felt like an eternity of bad basketball. Lazy on defense, confused on defense, 0 pts, 2 rebounds, 1 TO and 1 rebound. If Sidney didn't see any reason to pull him before the 11:28 mark in the second half, his fade away jumper early in the shot clock completely outside the flow of the offense should have been the BIG RED SIGN to sit him down for the remainder of the game.
Instead, he allowed him to continue on for another 5+ minutes.
It speaks to the overall accountability of the players in this program. When he and the team clearly needed it, CJ was not benched. When the players refused to set solid screens time-after-time, they were not benched.
Starting point guard Ryan Harrow sat the bench from the 14:41 mark in the second half to the 5:59 mark. Why? What was the reasoning? Sidney was still rotating point guard duties between Harrow, Gonzalez and Lorenzo Brown up until the very end. Was he grasping at straws, or was that his plan all along?
This loss—more than any on the schedule to this point—will be the tipping point that ultimately gets Lowe fired. You just don't squander leads THAT big on the road. You don't get beaten THAT badly after being in control for the first 15 minutes of the game. This loss, from the perspective of Lowe's job status, is worse than the Wisconsin loss. A 19-point lead blown here, along with the 17-point lead blown against Miami, is symptomatic of a larger problem than simply "youth."