By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Men’s Basketball Head Coach Brad Brownell met with members of the media on Tuesday to discuss the team’s performance against the Duke Blue Devils on Sunday and taking the show on the road against Miami on Wednesday as the 9-8 (1-2 in ACC) Tigers look to break .500 in ACC play.
“Miami is a pretty talented team I think,” Brownell said. “Good older guards obviously Durand Scott is a terrific penetrator and driver. Malcolm Grant is a very good shooter. They’re completely different now that they have Reggie Johnson back; he’s a big strong inside presence. I’ve also really been impressed with Kenny Khadji the transfer from Florida; he’s really talented, shoots the three well and has great size. He can play the four or the five so they can play really big with their starting lineup. It’s going to be a challenge for us as we look to win a game on the road against a team that has some experience.”
Brownell and Miami’s first year head coach Jim Larranaga have had experience coaching against each other as Larranaga coached at George Mason while Brownell was at Wright State. From what Brownell has seen of Miami’s film this year, Larranaga hasn’t changed his scheme much.
“Not really, he’s never been very complicated, they run a few things and continue to run them over and over,” Brownell said. “He isolates good players and they always had good players at George Mason. They usually had a good big guy who was an all conference player and now he has Reggie Johnson. They may be ball screening a little more than he did at George Mason but for the most part style of play is very similar and he’s had a lot of success doing it.”
When it comes to playing on the road, Brownell sees a distinct difference in those games as opposed to playing at Little John.
“Kids are more comfortable playing at home and getting the positive feedback from your crowd when you make big plays,” Brownell said. “Obviously there’s positive reinforcement of good plays when you’re at home by the crowd, it’s easier to have a little extra juice. The opposite is true when you’re on the road. You hear it when you do negative things that are reinforced by the fans. I also think kids are more comfortable and get into a good rhythm at home. “
Brownell sees the game at Miami as an attempt for the Tigers to get over the hump and get their first ACC road win of the season.
“We need to get a road win in the league,” Brownell said. “Obviously they’re very hard to come by, we only won two on the road last season. It’s not like they’re easy to get. We’d like to get one and get it behind us; we thought we played a better game against Duke on Sunday than we did against Boston College. We want to continue to try to play well and find a way to win a game too.”
What can Brownell and the Tigers do to improve their shooting from the free throw line where they struggled against the Blue Devils and from beyond the arc?
“Occasionally from three it’s a problem of shot selection, making sure that you’re taking shots on time and on rhythm,” Brownell said. “At times Andre and Tanner especially press every once and a while because they feel like they have to do more than sometimes they really need to. They feel the pressure to make a big shot or a play for our team and I thought that was really true at Boston College. I thought Tanner was forcing some things, doing some things that were a little out of character but for the right reason. Free throws it comes down to technique and confidence. You’re not doing a whole lot with a guy’s technique now, you may tweak it a little bit but mainly you just want to have them confident going to the line feeling good about themselves. We shot a bunch of free throws yesterday but in the end of the day it’s about a guy going to the line during a game and feeling good about his shot. You’re going to mess with their minds too much if you continue to tweak their technique. When our guys shoot 100 free throws most will make 70 out of 100 and the rest will make 80 or more but that’s not the same as having them run up and down the court, tired, going to the line in front of a crowd, knowing how much the shot means to the game and knowing that they only get two. It’s hard to simulate that in practice.”
One thing Brownell is looking for is for a few of the freshmen to separate themselves from the rest, showing that they are capable of making their shots every game and not just against certain teams. He’s looking for a few guys that will give the team consistency coming off of the bench.
“You hope that your guys practice well and eventually it has to carry over to making the shots during the game,” Brownell said. “Our freshmen have been inconsistent that way. Devin Coleman has played well over the last few weeks of practice, has improved in some areas, but hasn’t been able to make a shot yet. He’s doing good things, coming off of some screens, getting good looks and not making them. Obviously he’s frustrated by it. It’s the same for other guys too; you have to have some game success to build confidence. It’s hard because some of our guys don’t consistently get to play 18-20 minutes every night. It’s hard for us as a coaching staff because we would like for a couple of our freshmen to separate themselves and be a guy that consistently goes in and makes his shots or does this or that and it hasn’t been the case. Some of them are good at one thing and not as good at others, so every once in a while we have a game that might be good for one guy but not as good for another.”
After a few years where it has been a little bit easier on this year’s veterans like Tanner Smith and Andre Young, this season has been difficult dealing with close losses and learning how to be a main play maker.
“Nobody’s happy that we’re 9-8,” Brownell said. “We’ve had some frustrating, close losses and again it’s a different team. We were talking about it as a staff today, there’s a clear difference between older players and younger players. It’s strange to have 4 seniors and 6 freshmen. You can see it coming and going, it’s almost always the seniors coming and the freshmen coming, the seniors going and the freshmen going. It’s not like they don’t get along, this team gets along great. They’re not with each other all of the time, there’s a difference in maturity, interests, experience; there are just differences that come with guys being 3 and 4 years older than other players. “