By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- A 78-58 point victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday not only helped Brad Brownell’s Clemson Tigers get their first road win of the 2011-2012 season, but also has helped the confidence of a team that has suffered several closes losses this season. After suffering a close home loss to Maryland earlier in the week, Brownell came up with an idea to help his players release their frustrations, dodgeball. The Thursday before Clemson traveled to Winston-Salem to take on the Demon Deacons, the Tigers’ and their coaches played a few games of dodgeball which seemed to help them get over their past few losses and have one of their better games both offensively and defensively against Wake.
Tomorrow the Tigers will welcome Virginia to Littlejohn Coliseum, a team that they lost to 65-61 in Charlottesville earlier this season, being that the Tigers were close to beating the Cavaliers in January, how confident are they this time around?
“I’m really happy that our guys got a win last weekend, we feel like we’re in better spirits this week as we prepare for Virginia,” Brownell said. “I feel like we played them very well at their place, had a great first half of the game. But to Virginia’s credit they played down the stretch, Mike Scott was very good, Joe Harris made shots, and they got away from us a little bit in the second half. I’m looking forward to a rematch.”
Virginia’s Mike Scott who went 8-11 against the Tigers’ scoring 23 points, is one of the better players in the league with a jump shot that is difficult to contest. How are the Tigers’ going to defend such an offensive threat?
“It’s hard because you don’t see that type of shot very often,” Brownell said. “He’s a guy who scores in a variety of ways; his face up jump shot is terrific. He makes shots in areas before you can double him because of his quick release. Obviously he’s doing some screening stuff too, you’re helping on cutters and then he’ll pop back open for the shot, that’s why he’s one of the best in our league. He’s been a factor in most games for them and we need to just slow him down a little bit.”
Going into their last meeting, Brownell and his team thought that their game against the Cavaliers would be a defensive battle, but it turned out to be a more offensive game. Brownell however isn’t expecting that type of game tomorrow night.
“I just think the efficiency offensively was very good, especially in the first half for us,” Brownell said. “I thought both teams tried to push the pace a little bit but there were so few turnovers for points, there aren’t many defensive transition mistakes. We made a few during the second half which allowed them to get away from us and score quickly. They don’t make very many of those, it’s hard to make easy baskets so you’re usually going up against set defenses. With 20-25 seconds per possessions, you’re going to have a lower scoring game.”
Joe Harris, a guy who had a breakout game against the Tigers’ earlier this season, is now suffering a broken non-shooting hand however will play against the Tigers’ tomorrow night. However, Brownell is unsure if this will be an advantage for the Tigers’.
“Joe Harris will be fine I’m sure,” Brownell said. “If he’s playing he’ll be fine, and we’ll just have to do a very good job on him, better than we did the first time.”
All season long, Brownell has voiced his concern about the freshmen on the team and their lack of consistency. Against the Demon Deacons on Saturday it was Devin Coleman who stood out and had a break out game, going 4-5 from the field and scoring 9 points. How anxious is Brownell to see if Coleman’s scoring can become a consistent trend?
“It would be nice,” Brownell said. “That’s been the frustrating thing is that I don’t think one of our freshmen have separated themselves with consistent good play. They’ve all showed signs that they can make plays at times but they’ve also showed signs that they’re not ready to be regulars which can be problematic when you think about the future. But we just need those points, we had a night at Wake where we shot the ball well, had guys come off the bench and make threes, those things didn’t happen in other games which can be part of the reason why we haven’t won.”
After a great shooting performance like the Tigers’ had on Saturday, how much confidence are they carrying over to the game tomorrow?
“I hope so,” Brownell said. “It speaks to the confidence of our guys, they need to be more confident in their abilities. Most of the shots they’re getting are the same kinds of shots, I don’t know if we got a lot of easier looks at Wake but the two deep threes Tanner made against Wake, he’s had better looks during other games and didn’t make them, he just felt good about those shots on Saturday. Devin Coleman has had some open looks this season but hasn’t made them, I hope it wasn’t just one day, hope guys will continue to shoot well. Again I’ve been reasonably pleased with our games offensively, our turnover numbers have been good, and we just haven’t shot it quite as well as we really should.”
Milton Jennings who was suspended the last time Clemson and Virginia played will be active in tomorrow night’s game and has averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in each of the two games he’s been back, will he be a difference maker against the Cavaliers tomorrow?
“It’s hard to say, I never like speculating if you have an injured or suspended guy what the game would have been like if he played,” Brownell said. “When you play those games you play with who you have, I think it’s actually disrespectful to the players who are playing the game to go hypothetical on what would have happened had the injured or suspended player been in the game. Because there’s a lot of players on both teams that are playing their hearts out, we’re certainly happy to have Milt back and hope that he can contribute like he has in the past two games, I think he’s played well in the past two games. He brings more size to our team which helps in the front court.”