By Will Vandervort.
There is a reason why Clemson isn’t as good defensively as it normally is under Brad Brownell. It has a communication issue.
It reared its ugly head in Monday night’s loss to Rutgers. Lapses on defense allowed the Scarlet Knights to go on a 14-2 run in the latter stages of the second half, keying a 69-64 win over the Tigers in Littlejohn Coliseum.
Similar lapses cost the Tigers (4-3) in losses to Winthrop and Gardner-Webb earlier this season. It almost cost them in a win over High Point last Friday. Brownell says the coaches know communication is an issue and they try to coach through it as often as they can.
But in the second half, when the team is on the other end of the court far away from the coaches, it’s almost impossible for them to hear. That’s when teammates have to depend on each other to communicate and that is not happening right now.
“I think what happens is that you can sometimes play this game and feel like you are on an island,” Brownell said. “You feel like it is you and the guy you are guarding and sometimes you get a little shaky because you don’t know if you have as much help as you should have.
“We are a team defense and I think there have been times when we don’t look like we are guarding as a team as much as we are hoping guys guard their own man better. That’s a scary feeling as a player down there when you don’t feel like you have as much help. Some of that is communication, letting guys know ‘I’m here, I’m helping and I’m doing whatever.’ Communication gives you strength as a team when you hear your guys behind you.”
Part of the problem is that Clemson has a team full of soft spoken individuals. There really isn’t anyone in the locker room or away from the court that has taken a hold of the team and made it their own, and that is starting to show in game situations.
“I think as players we should correct those things,” senior Demarcus Harrison said. “Coach is not on the floor with us and we have to take responsibility for our actions out there.”
Rutgers (4-4) shot 50 percent from the field in the second half. The Scarlet Knights had three turnovers to 16 assists.
“I’m disappointed that our defense is not any better,” Brownell said. “I don’t think it is terrible, but it is not to our standards. We are not so good offensively that we cannot be that way.
“I don’t think we are a bad offensive team. I think we are average. We are okay. But to be good and to beat teams that are physically good and bigger than you, you have to be better defensively.”
And to do that the Tigers need to speak up a little.
“We have a lot of soft spoken guys. They are great kids. They are nice guys,” Brownell said. “They are not real demonstrative and they are not really loud. They are not the loudest guys in the room when they come into the room. They do not have real big huge personalities. It has proven to be a little bit of a problem for us right now.”