By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
No greater criticism exists than to say a team did not display appropriate energy in handling an entrance into competition. Some might call it “coming out flat”.
Over the past two games, the Clemson basketball team has shown itself capable of performing at various points on the emotional spectrum. In a loss to Florida State on Thursday, the Tigers were not the more aggressive bunch on the floor, ceding loose balls and hustle points to a hungrier Seminole squad.
Then on Saturday, the opposite was true in a win over Duke. Clemson came out and set the tone. The lessons of both victories—what can happen when an opponent outhustles a team—are available to the players. They saw the formula for success against Duke, and the one for failure against Florida State.
Hunger will be needed as the team heads out on the road to Blacksburg, VA, for a date with Virginia Tech on Wednesday night. Coming off of a big win, how the Tigers respond could directly dictate winning and losing against the Hokies.
“I think we played with a lot of vigor and verve,” guard Jordan Roper said. “We just need to go out there and play with the same amount of emotion.”
“It’s easier to have that kind of passion at home,” Head Coach Brad Brownell said. “When you go on the road, that’s where you sometimes have to generate your own juice a little bit. Hopefully that’s something our guys have learned.”
Brownell hopes his team understands what it took to withstand a horrific shooting performance to hang in there against Florida State and dominate Duke in the second half. Seeing the ball go into the basket has the Tigers riding high, but they know defense and discipline are the foundation of wins in this program.
“That needs to be the standard of basketball here,” Roper said. “We need to hold ourselves accountable to each other and the coaches. To continue to play well, that’s what we need to do.”
Going on the road adds a certain challenge to having the emotional upper hand. With the crowd ready and waiting to give the other team a boost at the opportune moment, being in the right frame of mind—both individually and collectively—can make a difference.
“No one’s going to be cheering for you,” Roper said. “You have to have each other’s back.”
The Tigers take an early 2-1 record in conference play up to Cassell Coliseum, which has been a difficult place for Clemson to win over the years. Overconfidence could be disastrous for a team that suddenly finds itself in a lofty place in the ACC standings.
Forward Jaron Blossomgame, who is coming off of a career game against Duke, says having a consistent mentality to bring into every individual contest will help his young teammates become more familiar with winning contentious games.
“We have to play with the same intensity every game,” he said. “Big game, little game, we have to come out ready to play.”