By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- After suffering their third straight loss Tuesday evening against Maryland, Brad Brownell and company are doing their best not to get frustrated with their midseason slump, as they’ve been competitive and within reach of winning each of the last three games lost. Brownell met with members of the media on Friday to discuss the season and the team’s upcoming contest against Wake Forest. The Tigers have yet to win their first away game, and being that they’ve faced the Demon Deacons once already at home and were able to come away with a 71-60 victory this Saturday’s matchup is a very important game for both sides.
“Tomorrow is as much about us as it is Wake in terms of our guys’ ability to bounce back,” Brownell said. “When you’ve lost some close games like we have recently you’re always worried about your guys still being focused and having that sense of urgency to go out and compete, I’m optimistic that we’ll go into the game with the right attitude and compete like we need to. I’m sure Wake isn’t very happy with their last game against Virginia, Virginia played very well, having said that we know that we have to play at a very high level and we haven’t been able to do that lately at certain points in games and it’s cost us. We’re both in a situation where we really need a win.”
Since the two teams have seen each other already this season, they’ve studied the first game’s film however won’t try and change any of their looks up.
“You certainly know each other a little better, now that you’ve guarded each other you have a better feel of what the other team does or is trying to do,” Brownell said. “You know about their personnel because you’ve seen them up close and not just on film. But it’s really both teams have the same advantages and you have to just go play and see what happens. We’re not going to do anything drastically different as far as that goes, most teams at this point in the season are drastically changing how they play, they pretty much do what they do, there’s a wrinkle or two that teams may try to add each week just to give a different look but you’ve just got to go play.”
Although the Tigers’ team hasn’t had the type of season that they were hoping for so far as they’ve fallen to 11-12 (3-6 in the ACC) Brownell doesn’t believe that they’re a broken team.
“It’s not all the way broken or we’d have poor performances,” Brownell said. “I watched the Duke-North Carolina game and in a lot of ways I felt like we were Duke in that game, where we’ve been behind, had these runs and the chances but just didn’t make the shot in the end. So we don’t rush the court, instead we feel all somber walking to the locker room after we’ve played reasonably well. But that’s sports; there are a couple of things we have to do better. We have to be a little more patient in our offense at times, still have to play at a good pace, take good shots when we have them but we also can’t be afraid of taking what is a truly good shot for our team at that time. If we haven’t scored in two possessions, maybe we need to make sure in the next possession that we get a great shot, whether it is in the post or someone screening for Andre Young, we can’t just settle and I think that’s happened a few times. There’s some shots that when they don’t go in, they’re bad shots but when they do it’s pretty good offense.”
“Defensively, we have to clean up a few things,” Brownell said. “We gave up three baskets against Maryland on out of bounds under plays. We usually do better than that, we didn’t finish transition opportunities on offense and they did, that was the difference in the game. It’s just a couple of things on each side to be two or three possessions better, and you’re feeling better about the way you’re playing and you’re winning more games.”
The late game rallies that Clemson has been known for this season are impressive in Brownell’s eyes however he also believes that some of that may come from the other team letting their foot off the gas a little bit and allowing Clemson to get back into the game.
“Some of that happens because of the way the other team is,” Brownell said. “When the other team’s ahead just like when we were ahead against Georgia Tech, you take your foot off the gas pedal just a little bit, you’re a little more cautious, trying to use up clock, and the other team has nothing to lose so they’re certainly aggressive. That’s happened to us a few times, maybe more so Virginia Tech than Maryland, the Maryland game there was still enough time left for us to get back into it. It’s a combination of all of those things, that’s going to be different to start each game.”
As for the small crowd in Littlejohn when the Tigers’ took on the Terrapins, Brownell was a little disappointed that Littlejohn wasn’t more crowded, but knows that when a team is losing, it’s easier for fans to watch the game on TV instead.
“It was disappointing, I wish we would have had a few more people there,” Brownell said. “I understand though when you’re not winning as much it’s easier to sit at home and watch the game on television. That’s part of the world we live in now; certainly I think our guys played really hard. I think the outcomes of the games have shown that we’re battling, we’d like those outcomes to be different but you’re not looking at a team that’s embarrassing themselves and not giving 100%. The fans that came I think they had a pretty good time, got their money’s worth because it was a pretty good basketball game.”
The Tigers’ one possession losses may stem from either a lack of defined roles on the team or that they’re not ready to put the team on their back in a critical situation.
“I think our guys have defined roles I just don’t know if our guys are ready for that all the time or are 100% confident that they’re going to do it,” Brownell said. “I think there have been a few times where it’s been a little difficult, but there have been other times where we’ve done some good things and then haven’t made the shot or missed some free throws and that’s the last play. It’s just like the free throws the last game, it’s the last play, what people remember, but there were 50 plays that we went back and showed our guys that could impact the game and change the situation. There were a few fast break situations where we had the numbers but couldn’t finish and when they had those situations they finished. I do think its guys not having a lot of experience in being asked to take the big shot. Andre’s probably the only one up until this year to hit a big shot in his career, and Andre’s asked to do so many things on this team and can’t do it all. We need someone to emerge and take a little pressure off of him.”