By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Could losing by 33 points to Pittsburgh help Clemson get its first victory ever at North Carolina?
“Maybe,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said on Friday.
The Tigers play at North Carolina on Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPNU, and unless someone has never turned on a television or watched ESPN or recently just became a basketball fan, everyone knows Clemson is 0-56 all-time in Chapel Hill, the longest streak of one team beating another at home in NCAA history.
“I think there is good and bad,” Brownell said. “I think you will see, number one, you go into the arena and you know you are playing North Carolina so certainly there will be some excitement from our guys from that standpoint.
“But the other thing is you are going to play in front of 20,000 people and you better get over being nervous and you better handle your business on the court and pay attention about what is going on, on the court. If you are worried about what is going on off the court and all the things surrounding it and if you are not experienced in dealing with some of that, you are going to be exploited again.”
Regardless if it is at North Carolina or somewhere else, Brownell says his basketball team has to take that next step and go into a hostile environment and compete at a high level.
Clemson (13-5, 4-2 ACC) did not compete at all in the loss to the Panthers on Tuesday night. Not only was Pitt just better than the Tigers, but it outplayed them at every position. Brownell was so disappointed with his team’s effort he took everyone out and played players that seldom got on the floor.
Carson Fields, a reserve guard that seldom sees action, recorded a career-high seven minutes in Tuesday’s loss. Freshman Austin Ajukwa played 13 minutes after not playing a single minute in the previous three games.
“I did not think we fought and played with the kind of collective determined spirit that we have throughout the course of the year,” Brownell said. “That’s why I told you after the Florida State (loss) that I was not really that upset because I did think we fought in that game, we just did not play well.
“I didn’t think we fought very well in the Pitt game. I thought the environment bothered us and we lost our composure a little bit. We rallied back a little bit until the four-minute mark of the first half when we cut it to ten, but once the dam broke there in the last four minutes and they went up 37-20, we never recovered. At halftime, I sensed we were not going to recover. That disappointed me. I think that is the point that had me angry and had me playing other players.”
Over the last couple of days Brownell has explained to his team why he was so angry and showed them what he was talking about on film.
“We talked about effort and what we need to do to play better and coach better,” he said. “We better fix it here in the next couple of days. When we have another opportunity we better be more prepared.”
Brownell says they have not done anything drastic like put on helmets or hit each other or anything like that, but he says they do understand what makes them play well, what they stand for and what they are going to do in order to compete.
“We especially better do it against a big strong physical team like North Carolina,” he said. “You can do it and still give up some rebounds and physically have some problems because of their size. That better be something that you bring to the game.”