Tigers keep finding ways to win

Tigers keep finding ways to win

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Tigers keep finding ways to win

Clemson is 5-1 this year in games decided by 5 points or less

Brad Brownell cannot put his finger on it.

Why is his Clemson team 5-1 this year in games decided by five points or less? What’s the difference? Is it because the Tigers are an older team with more experience?

“To be honest with you, I don’t know what it is a function of,” Brownell said. “Last year, we had an older team and we lost all of those games.”

The Tigers, who are ranked No. 20 in the latest Associated Press and Coaches Polls, were 4-9 last year in games decided by five points or less. They lost nine of their last 10 games in those situations, including five by two points or less.

“I don’t know if I got smarter or our players got better, but to be honest with you, some of it is just basketball,” Brownell said as Clemson prepares to host No. 19 North Carolina tonight (7 o’clock) at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson. “Some of it is good things happen for you. Sometimes guys make a big shot or miss a big shot. Some of it is momentum that comes from winning some games or losing some games that sometimes does not feel like things are going your way.”

This year, the Tigers (17-4, 6-3 ACC) beat Ohio on a neutral court by five points, won by a basket on a neutral floor vs. Florida, won at Boston College by four points, beat Louisville at Littlejohn by five points and then of course got a game-winning shot by Marcquise Reed with 25 seconds to play on Sunday to defeat Georgia Tech by two points in Atlanta.

The lone blemish was a one-point loss at NC State, a game in which Gabe DeVoe was at the foul line and had an opportunity to tie the game with 0.2 seconds to play after the Tigers trailed by 12 points with 1:34 to go.

Though last year’s team was older than this year’s squad, the difference in this season compared to last year comes at the guard positions where DeVoe (a senior), Reed (a junior) and point guard Shelton Mitchell (a junior) seem to play with more confidence and are more aggressive with the basketball.

Granted that can sometimes lead to turnovers, which has been the case in the Tigers’ recent losses, but it can also change the way a team attacks when the game is on the line. Case in point, when Reed noticed a power forward was guarding him with the game tied with under 30 seconds to play at Georgia Tech, he attacked the basket and made a layup to win the game.

Reed (15.4 ppg) leads the Tigers in scoring, while DeVoe (12.3) is third on the team and Mitchell (12.0) is fourth. DeVoe scored a career-high 25 points in the win at Georgia Tech, while Mitchell dropped in 17 and Reed scored 13 points to go along with 11 assists.

Reed’s 11 assists are a high for a Clemson player in the Brownell era at Clemson.

“Certainly, having older perimeter players help in terms of our guys not being afraid or having courage to make big shots, big plays, get stops when you need it, especially on the road,” Brownell said. “To be honest with you, I’m not sure. We had an older team last year and we did not win very many games down the stretch in close games and this year we have won a few.”

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