By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- After a tough loss against in state rival South Carolina last weekend, Brad Brownell and his Tigers are looking to get back on track, however their next game is against the Arizona Wildcats a team that made it to the Final 4 in 2010. Here’s what Coach Brownell had to say about his team and the improvement they’ve made so far this season and about the match up.
“We’re certainly excited about the opportunity to go out and play Arizona, one of the premier programs in College Basketball,” Brownell said. “Coach Shawn Miller is a very good friend of mine and a guy that I really respect, I think he’s one of the best coaches in our business. I’m grateful to him to have this series because I think it’ll be very good for our program, an incredible environment to play in and next year having them here at Little John will be exciting for our fans and I hope they appreciate it. It doesn’t come at a great time for us but at the same time I’m excited that we’re playing them.”
Brownell sees this game as a measuring stick to where his team is at in the ACC at this point in the season, as they face the Wildcats on the road in a very tough environment.
“Arizona is one of those teams that if you ask Shawn he’ll say they’re not playing their best basketball but I think they’re playing better,” Brownell said. “They almost had a terrific win against Florida, they’ll be a top 25 team at some point here again I’m sure. They’re like all of us going through some growing pains trying to find out the best way to play in terms of who they have, but it will be a tremendous test. They’ll be extremely focused I’m sure after losing that game and the environment will be as good as we play in all year, 15,000 probably at the game. I scheduled this game thinking that for our program to move forward we’ve got to schedule games like this against teams of this caliber.”
Brownell and his team have studied every game that Arizona has played however this game according to Brownell is more about finding out about our team and where we are.
“I was really proud of the way our guys played at Iowa, I thought we really competed,” Brownell said. “We were very focused and went into the game with the proper mindset. We’ll have to play every bit as well to win against Arizona, Arizona is certainly more talented and the environment will make it more difficult but our guys are excited to have the opportunity to play them, it’ll be an exciting game.”
The one element that Brownell is continuing to search for in his 2011 team is a consistent scorer or two that he can always count on to make plays.
“I’m looking for guys that can put the ball in the basket regularly,” Brownell said. “I said in the off season that it would be our biggest question mark, I thought we would defend reasonably well and we have. We have played pretty hard most nights, but we get in stretches were guys get a little tight to be honest. They’re not sure if they can make plays they’re kind of looking around hoping that someone else will make a play, we need a couple of guys that will just grab the team and decide that they’re going to do it. It’s a difficult thing when you haven’t done it much, Andre I don’t think in any way afraid to take big shots or make plays but because of his size he can’t attack the basket and that’s a problem because he doesn’t get inside the defense enough and get fouled. His offense revolves around making shots and there’s going to be some nights when he has an off day and doesn’t make as many. We have to continue to work with Milton and Devin and some of the other guys to get them to become more consistent, aggressive scorers.”
Brownell knows that this is something that cannot be coached; instead a player has to believe in his shooting ability and want to be in a position to make plays, embrace the pressure of the situation and go do it.
“There’s an uneasiness that some times our guys play with that we’ve got to get past,” Brownell said. “Some of the turnovers you see from Milt are because he’s uncomfortable and he’s trying to get a little closer to the basket but he shouldn’t, we’ve been missing shots in the paint that we’re supposed to make. But you have to continue to do it and get yourself in those positions in practice and in games. We just need more success in games.”
Brownell sees the match up with Arizona as a great set up for the ACC schedule looming in the near future.
“I think playing Iowa at Iowa and Arizona at Arizona are certainly good tests that you’d see in an ACC game, 10,000 people were at Iowa and there should be 15,000 in Arizona,” Brownell said. “Those are the types of environments that we want to play in, hopefully it prepares us for ACC play.”
Freshmen T.J. Sap and Rod Hall have shown glimpses of greatness so far this season, especially in Clemson’s big win over Iowa earlier this season, however Brownell is hoping for both freshmen to become more consistent in order for Clemson to be successful.
“Our freshmen still have to play better,” Brownell said. “We don’t have the luxury like last year to let our lone freshman just guard the ball or go do a few things that helped us. Our freshmen have to continue to do more, we’ve been working with them and challenging them. They’ve made more progress though in the past two weeks than they did in the first month. I think they’re getting more comfortable with how we’re playing, understanding what we’re looking for a little better. Bernard’s conditioning is getting better but it’s not where it needs to be, he still has breathing problems at times but in practice they’ve been better. I certainly challenged them this week and I will next week because it’s two full weeks of practice, a point where they can make big strides and we need those guys to support the seniors with better, more productive play. But it will boil down to our older guys making big plays, that’s their job and role, they’re juniors and seniors in the program, it’s their responsibility.”