By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Clemson head coach Brad Brownell says his team is in good spirits as it heads into its ACC opener against Florida State Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum. Now he hopes that translates into the Tigers’ first conference victory.
“I think it is easy to look at wins and losses and say all of sudden that now there is a change in mentality or this, that and the other,” Brownell said. “Basically, we have played better against teams we should beat and we beat them handily.
“We did what we were supposed to do. Now, obviously, we have a great test in Florida State. They are an ACC level opponent at home Saturday. They are the defending ACC Champions so it is a team that is used to winning and there are guys there with a lot of pride in their program. The stakes rise a little bit and we are going to have to play better than we played.”
Like Clemson (8-4), Florida State has been an up-and-down kind of team this year as well. The ‘Noles have lost to South Alabama, Mercer and most recently at Auburn on Wednesday night. The Auburn loss snapped a four-game win streak.
In that game, Florida State (8-5) turned the basketball over 20 times, including six by preseason All-ACC guard Michael Snaer. Clemson forced 25 turnovers in the victory over The Citadel, which led to 44 of the Tigers 92 points. Sixteen of the 25 turnovers came off steals
“I think they are certainly dealing with some of the same issues we are,” Brownell said. “Both teams are playing with young players. There was a lot of turnover. Some of the guys that are returning have bigger roles now, just like we have guys with bigger roles.
“When you do those things, especially early in the season, there are going to be times when guys don’t play as well. We had that happen a couple of times with Purdue and Coastal. Then there have been times when we played very good basketball. We played probably 30 minutes of good basketball against Arizona and 35 minutes of good basketball against Gonzaga.”
At this time of the year, Brownell says he is still trying to see what they have and can his players be consistently good. The biggest challenge for any team is to be consistently good over a long period of time.
“Everybody on the team has confidence in their game,” center Devin Booker said. “We all bring a unique trait to the offense and the defense. Once we put that all together we should be okay.”
The Tigers have taken a couple of good steps in that direction with their offensive performances the last two times out. Clemson has averaged 83 points in its last three victories and shot 61.4 percent from the floor in their 92-51 victory over The Citadel.
“We still have the defense to prove we are one of the best in the ACC,” said Booker, who practiced Friday and is expected to play despite suffering from an ankle sprain. “We just have to get the offense going. We got it going in the last game, but we just have to continue that and put it together for a full game.”
Florida State will be the first of 18 ACC games. The league decided to move to an 18-game schedule after employing a 16-game schedule the last 21 years.
“When you go to an 18 league games it is certainly more difficult from the standpoint of the competition and the pressure on the games is a little bit higher,” Brownell said. “The games seem to be pretty close. We play a bunch of games in a few days so I think you have to be a little careful with practice and how you manage your guys a little bit and those kinds of things.
“A quick turnaround favors a team that is a little bit older.”
Something neither Clemson nor Florida State are as both schools dive into the ACC season.
“We are so young and at times (our players) can be immature,” Brownell said. “They just don’t understand the level you need all the time of seriousness and focus.”