Wealth of experience
CLEMSON -- Some things are hard for a coach to explain.
When your team has a bunch of open looks from long range and misses 19 3-pointers on 23 attempts, you spend the bus ride back to Atlanta wondering what else you can possibly do as a coach to make the ball go in.
Other aspects are much less mysterious, as articulated by Josh Pastner after he watched his team fall 72-51 at Clemson on Tuesday night.
Georgia Tech is not very good. Clemson is very good.
And a fundamental part of that separation is the vast separation in experience between the two teams.
Pastner's starting lineup last night: Five players with a combined 13 years of experience.
"I'm telling you: Being older makes a great deal," Pastner said after his team dropped to 8-12 overall and 1-9 in the ACC.
It's made for a splendid deal at Clemson this season, one that began with plenty of hope from the inside but not much from the outside entering Brad Brownell's 13th season.
At this point, the Tigers are 9-1 in the conference and it's become evident to almost every entity except for the NET rankings that this thing is no fluke.
And that's largely because of the vast and extraordinary well of experience this group boasts. Not just experience, but experienced guys who have a rare mix of talent, relentlessness and leadership.
If a winning trend is based on a flimsy foundation, you simply don't overcome the absence of two important contributors. Not at Clemson, at least.
When Alex Hemenway sat for the first time in Clemson's road game to Georgia Tech, it felt like a pretty big deal because he had scored in double figures five times to that point and was shooting 50 percent from 3-point range.
When Chase Hunter was added to the injury list after a win over Duke, it felt like that might be the blow that would make this team vulnerable and bring it down to earth.
Yet with the team's top long-range marksman missing nine straight games, and basically the quarterback of the group missing the past three, the Tigers really haven't looked all that wobbly.
The freshman class has been an essential breath of fresh air, no doubt. Because it's almost startling to see the smoothness of Chauncey Wiggins last night, or the unruffled manner by which Dillon Hunter has gone about replacing his brother after the most logical replacement (Josh Beadle) showed he's not ready yet.
But if you want to know how quickly Clemson snapped out of the offensive malaise that struck against Virginia Tech, that story is told by the guys who have been doing this a while.
Seventeen seconds in, Tyson drilled a confident 3-pointer from the corner.
Thirty seconds later, Galloway hit one.
Forty seconds after that, Galloway hit another one and was fouled (he made the free throw).
Big shots, confident shots. Taken by the two guys with 11 seasons of experience.
And that's certainly not the extent of the experience.
Add to that the towering presence of PJ Hall (17 points last night), and it becomes easier to explain how the Tigers recovered from last week's loss at Wake Forest, dug deep over the weekend, and then spanked the Yellow Jackets last night.
A wealth of experience creates armor that can withstand a lengthy shooting slump.
Tyson was dealing with one of those, but he kept shooting and Brownell kept confidence in him.
Similar deal with Galloway, who had gone 9-of-31 from 3 over his previous five games entering Georgia Tech (and 0-for-3 against Virginia Tech).
Galloway has been through this a few times over the years. Because of that he keeps his confidence and snaps out of it in some grand fashion, in addition to supplying five of his team's 18 assists last night.
The Tigers have a lot of experience sitting on the bench in Hemenway and Chase Hunter (eight combined seasons).
"Clemson is really good," Pastner said, "and I think they're really old and good. Galloway, PJ Hall, Hunter Tyson -- those are old guys who are really good players.
"It makes a huge difference. Just the leadership, just the experience factor. I mean that's an old group, and those three guys are really good. Hunter Tyson and PJ Hall are about as good of a frontcourt as there is in the ACC. Brevin -- they're an old group. And when they include Chase Hunter, they're really old.
"Really old and good."
That experience will come in handy when they return, quite possibly this weekend at Florida State.
But even without them, this team still stands out in ways that opposing coaches can only marvel at and envy.
Some things are hard to explain.
This subplot sure isn't.
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