By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC-Clemson’s basketball team has been a part of its share of close games, losing several by 4 points or less. Saturday’s game against NC State was yet another close one however it was the Tigers and seniors Andre Young and Tanner Smith who came up big in the end as Clemson squeaked past the Wolfpack 72-69 in overtime.
“It was certainly a great win for our players,” head coach Brad Brownell said after the game. “I couldn’t be happier for Andre and Tanner for those guys to make those last two plays, Tanner in regulation drawing the foul and making the free throws and Andre in overtime with his big three. Those guys deserve that they’ve given a lot to our team and we’ve had a few situations where it didn’t work out that way and I’m just very happy it did today.”
“This was a good confidence building win against a very good team, those guys are hard to stop,” Brownell said. “They’re very hard to guard and our guys had to play exceptionally well to win.”
NC State had done a very good job at keeping Young from getting comfortable in his game during regulation, holding him to only 6 points however Young was able to tie the game up during overtime with a crucial three pointer and get into a rhythm ultimately allowing the final shot to go in.
“Sometimes it’s like maybe the last one there’s no thought, sometimes you can be your own worst enemy, especially when you’re a good kid with a conscience like Tanner and Andre are,” Brownell said. “When there’s six seconds left and you’ve got to quick shoot one with no thought, just let it go and he nailed it. Certainly it was a big shot and I couldn’t be happier for those two.”
With all of the distractions this weekend with the Alumni game last night which drew a big crowd and a luncheon earlier today, Brownell said that today’s win was a big one for his players and the alumni present.
“It was awesome, an awesome weekend,” Brownell said. “We had a great event last night with the alumni game, so great to have our players back and a terrific crowd, I appreciate all of the people who came out last night. The guys had a great time playing and it was good to see them shooting the ball in Littlejohn. Then we had a nice luncheon today honoring the 25 greatest Clemson Tigers of all time it was neat to see some of those guys and have them in the stands to see our guys compete and win. It was really a good weekend for Clemson Basketball.”
Young has been the guy that Brownell has called on most this season late in the game and for the most part, the close games haven’t gone the Tigers’ way. Brownell hasn’t had to counsel Young however after the missed opportunities, knowing that one day the shot would fall like it did today.
“Not a lot, he knows that he’s going to get the opportunity and that’s what he wants,” Brownell said. “We’re going to go to those guys; you’re going to try and run some things where there are different options and to allow those guys to make plays. The ebbs and flows and emotions of being involved in athletics are very challenging, that’s what makes the wins like this really sweet and show the character of the kids on our team, I’m proud of them. We’ve been on the other side and have had a lot of games not go our way this season but to keep hanging in there and fighting and working I guess the moral of the story is that we need to get to overtime because we’re 2-0 this season when the game goes to overtime.”
A win like today’s in Brownell’s eyes is an example of his team’s toughness and their ability to put the tough losses they’ve suffered behind them.
“I think it does, our guys just continue to come to work and practice every day with great attitudes,” Brownell said. “The older guys have been great role models for the younger players; we’ve come ready to play every game. We haven’t won every game but especially here as the year’s gone on this team has improved, we’re certainly playing better basketball than we did and guys are getting a better feel of what they need to do and their role. The one good thing is that we have four seniors, each has their own unique story and that’s helped us, they want their senior years to be a good one so they’ve stepped up. We have kind of a young team, but not like it will be next year we’ll be ridiculously young.”
Juniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings also gave energy to the Tigers with Jennings leading the team with 17 points and Booker contributing 9 points and 10 rebounds.
“Devin and Milton played well today,” Brownell said. “Devin had to log a lot of minutes, he’s really rebounding the ball well on the defensive end. In a couple of timeouts I had to tell the team that they needed to help Devin rebounding, during the second half it was hard for us to get rebounds because NC State is such a good offensive rebounding team. As for Milt, we’re just trying to continue to keep him confident, take shots, when you have a shot or a pull up take it. Don’t overanalyze or over penetrate just simplify things a little bit and he did a good job of it today, playing well through foul trouble. He’s had a hard time when in foul trouble to keep his emotions in check and play relaxed and make good plays; he lets negative things stick around with him a lot so it was good to see today from Milt.”
Another player who came through for the Tigers after a difficult ACC season was freshman TJ Sapp who played 23 minutes, scored two big threes, and the confidence rubbed off on his defensive game as well.
“He’s had a couple of good days of practice this week,” Brownell said. “Felt like he understood defensively what we were doing for this game than some of the other young guys, it helped that he made a shot early which helped his confidence. But what kept him on the floor was that he didn’t make many defensive mistakes. Sometimes in games like this where it’s so hard and close that a defensive error is troubling, he did a better job so we stuck with him.”