By William Qualkinbush
As Clemson prepares to take on national powerhouse Duke at home on Saturday, Brad Brownell has a simple recipe for success that might make Tiger fans cringe a bit.
“It comes down to offensive execution for us,” he said. “We’ve got to make more plays.”
Just 41 hours prior to tipoff against the 13th-ranked Blue Devils, the Tigers lost a game to Florida State that marked one of the offensive low points of the Brownell era. Now they will try to rebound against a team not apt to provide a get-well opportunity.
This matchup pits the ACC’s best offense in Duke (84.3 points per game) and its best defense in Clemson (53.5 points per game). The Blue Devils make almost half of their shot attempts and more than 41 percent of three-point attempts as a team, giving the Tigers their toughest test to date.
Super freshman Jabari Parker (19.8) and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood (18.5) both rank inside the top five in the conference in scoring, combining for around 40 percent of the team’s offensive output. But Brownell says dwelling on them alone will not be sufficient to get stops since Duke’s ball movement is so crisp.
“They’ve got the ability to do other things,” he said. “It’s not like you can just focus on one thing consistently and expect to win.
“They just have a lot of guys that can make baskets. That’s how you have the best offense in the country.”
A sellout crowd—albeit with plenty of royal blue thrown into the mix—will greet the Tigers after a solid Thursday night crowd went home disappointed. Brownell was frustrated his team could not capitalize on early chances to create positive momentum then, and he hopes a chance for redemption proves more fruitful in that regard.
“To start, our guys should have great energy,” Brownell said. “If we’re playing well, hopefully we’ll maintain that throughout the course of the game and feed off of our crowd.”
Brownell was optimistic about his team’s prospects in terms of its level of play and mindful of the caliber of opponent it will see. Duke is a team perennially concerned about its NCAA Tournament stock, and Saturday provides Mike Krzyzewski’s bunch with a shot to add another notch to its collective belt.
The Blue Devils lost their first true road game of the season one week ago—a 79-77 gut-wrencher in South Bend against Notre Dame. Brownell expects some extra motivation to play a role in supplying intensity to the opposing team on Saturday, even as a raucous crowd awaits.
“Their guys will enjoy the atmosphere, as well,” he said. “They’ll be excited about going to a place that’s sold out, a good atmosphere to play. They haven’t played that many true road games, so those things kind of get you going as a team, too—to try and get some quality road wins.”