By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- The red hot Clemson Tigers have won 5 of their last 6 ACC contests as they improve their record to 16-13 (8-7 in the ACC). Here is what head Coach Brad Brownell and seniors Andre Young and Tanner Smith had to say after Clemson pulled off a close victory over Virginia Tech to win their 8th consecutive Senior Night game.
“A really good win for our guys, kind of the same ending as in Virginia Tech,” Brownell said. “We had chances at free throws there and they had them tonight. I thought we got off to a slow start defensively but really played well late. We kind of just gutted it out, you have to gut it out in games like this, we didn’t necessarily play great all of the time but it was like a boxing match kind of back and forth. I’m just proud of these guys for winning on an emotional night.”
Q: Coach Can you explain the lack of three pointers tonight?
Brownell: Well they guard the three very well but in all honesty we were 0-10 which is enough shots but we just missed a couple that we normally make and it wasn’t an emphasis for us. We were trying to go inside and drive the ball more this game and for whatever reason we didn’t shoot it very well and some of that is certainly their defense. They put a lot of emphasis on guarding the three, I would have liked for us to make a couple but that wasn’t the primary focus of the game.
Q: You talked recently about how this team doesn’t quit, is this a game that they maybe wouldn’t have won a month ago and this shows the progress that you’ve made down the stretch?
B: Yeah I think really the last two games in some ways. We got back and got control of this one and it was frustrating that it got so close in the end; if we could have made a couple more plays offensively we could have put this one away. The NC State game I thought we won more with our offense and tonight we won because of our defense. That’s what you need to be able to do; you need to be able to do things at both ends to be a really good team. I just think that our team has improved throughout the course of the year and these guys are more confident at the end of games.
Q: Tanner how good did it feel to have the ball in your hands as time expired?
Tanner- It was nice; I got that opportunity at Virginia Tech, had the ball in my hands off the tip off on the free throw and missed the shot. It was nice that this time I got the rebound. Can’t help but have flashbacks to Coastal Carolina where a team gets a tip in, but Book and Milt really fought down low and they couldn’t get a clean one.
Q: What’d the ref say you did on that first basket for the technical?
T- He just said that I turned around, looked like I was staring at him, that’s just how it goes sometimes.
Q: Coach, what is it about this team that has allowed you guys to pull the iron out of the fire these past six ball games?
B- We’re a little more confident in what we’re doing, and these two guys understand better that they have to make plays. There’s no one else, there’s a learning curve there. At the beginning of the season we were all looking around to see who would do it and no one grabbed the bull by the horns to do it. I certainly think these two guys are ready willing and able to do it and have done it with more confidence as the season has progressed. I also think that with the way we work and practice every day and how hard these guys go out it that we’ve improved. We’re a better team in February than we were in November and December. We’re better because we’ve had 25 games and a bunch of good practices. We have a couple of good things to rely on and it’s gone our way a little bit.
Q: How much can you draw on what you guys did to Florida State?
B- Just knowing that if you play as well as you did back then that you can go down there and win. It was so long ago that both teams are much different now. We clearly caught them by surprise that one day when we won here. They’ve gone on to do some really good things this year and we’re just a team that continues to improve and we just kind of take each day and get a little bit better, more focused, improve our skill set and understand what we’re trying to do and I think our confidence has really changed. It’s not just these guys but our freshmen, our contributions are just better.
Q- Andre tonight you guys weren’t really on, maybe a few months ago you’d lose this game tonight. What’s different about it being now than it would have been a few months ago?
Andre- I’m just going to go on more of what coach said, just our confidence especially our freshmen they’ve been playing really well. They’ve been working hard in practice and that in turn pushes us older guys to practice well and I just think that builds on each other and helps us get better.
Q- For both Tanner and Andre what does it mean for you guys to possibly have a bye in the first round of the ACC tournament depending on what happens Saturday?
Andre- I mean it’s definitely big, we had a bye last year and we automatically got a bid to the second round. It’s one less game we’d have to worry about and it would definitely be helpful.
T- I just think we need to take care of our business. We can’t control what other teams do, just be about what we do. If we don’t get the bye it just gives us another game to put under our belt on the ACC tournament, get those butterflies out. But if we do get a bye it would be good to rest our legs a little bit.
Q- For both of you, what did tonight mean to you? I was watching TJ as you guys were talking and he was joking around on the bench it was almost like he had that thought of it’s never going to be me, and I know you’ve had those thoughts before too and senior year sneaks up on you.
T- Definitely I remember being in that position as a freshman but time really flies. There are sometimes when it feels like it’s going really slow, sometimes the summers feel slow. But when the season gets going it just flies by. I just keep telling them to enjoy it, it’s a great ride to be on and I’m honored to be a part of this program.
Q- Brad I know this sounded like a ridiculous question a few months ago but now are you starting to do math and think maybe you could end up 9-7 in the ACC?
B- I haven’t done that at all with this team. We’re smart enough to know that the way we’re losing, I just had to make sure that these guys knew that we were still pretty good. Hey fellas we’re playing these games and lost some but we’re playing these teams well for 38 minutes with a bad stretch at the end or middle. It’s only a couple of possessions and if we could just continue to grind and push the boulder up the mountain we’ll eventually get there and have some success. The thing that speaks to the character of the kids is that it’s easy to say but it’s hard to come to work every day and keep pushing the boulder it’s not that fun. It’s not fun when you don’t get the results that you want and that speaks to their maturity and character because they’re the kind of guys that don’t let a little bit of adversity stop them. They believe in what we’re doing, like the way we play, like their teammates, it was just a few bad situations.
It’s hard for us to play really well because we do have some limitations and we know that. A lot of teams do. We have to work hard to get things; we have to be locked in to get stops. Offensively we really have to execute well. There are a lot of things that go into playing really well on both sides and that’s why it’s hard to have really good games like that. Like I said tonight our defense the last thirty minutes was better than our offense. Against NC State it was the opposite. Certainly if you can put good play on both sides together, that’s probably what happened against Florida State the first time, we truly played well on both sides. But that’s hard to do because the guys on the other team aren’t letting you do everything you want to do. They’re coming in prepared and coached again we believe that we can do good things, are a good team and that when we execute and carry out our game plans that we can be a tough out.
Q- Brad you started the season on a road trip to Charlotte with Andre and Tanner, you’re ending it at the podium with them. Can you talk about what these two mean to you and this program?
B- They’re special guys. I didn’t talk about them a lot earlier because I didn’t want to get emotional. They don’t get enough credit for being good players, they’re very good players. We look at things the wrong way sometimes, all of the things they can do, making threes, making good passes, basketball IQ, pressure, willingness to be coached, work hard every day, put their neck out there in front of other people. There are a lot of things that go into being really good, caring more about the team than your personal stats. These guys have checks in all of those boxes. It’s special for me, never once did they think about leaving, that my system wasn’t for them. In fact I won’t speak for them but they really enjoy our style of play and what we’ve done. There’s something about what we’re doing that they really enjoy, they’ve embraced it. These two guys are basketball guys and it was a chance for them to learn different type of basketball and they’re so open minded and good people, you can be hard on them and demanding but as long as you’re fair with them and they understand what you’re trying to do they’ll be with you. That’s all you can ask of them as a coach.”