After a tough, hard-fought January and three-game losing streak in February, the Tigers (14-11, 4-9 ACC) secured a win over Wake Forest (15-11, 6-8 ACC) in Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Clemson was led by point guard Marcquise Reed with 21 points and forward Jaron Blossomgame with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Avry Holmes and Shelton Mitchell both finished with 15 points, nonetheless contributing to the Tiger’s victory.
Following the game, the media spoke to head coach Brad Brownell and point guard Marcquise Reed.
Here is what we heard:
Brownell was overall pleased with how his players performed, but more than anything, he was happy his guys were able to enjoy a win on Tuesday night.
“Good win for our guys. I thought we played well tonight in a lot of areas,” he said. “Defensively, in the first half, I thought we were pretty good. Maybe in the first eight minutes, not quite as good as we would’ve liked. But the last twelve, we did a lot of really good things. Played pretty well offensively.
“Maybe had a little slow drought there in the second half for a little bit, but it’s always harder playing with a lead like that. Wake really played well in the second half, they were hard to guard. Really proud of Legend (Robertin) for giving us some good minutes off the bench. I thought he really gave us a spark. And again, I’m just really happy for my team. They’ve been competing really hard the last couple weeks, especially last week. We didn’t get any wins, so it’s nice for my team to enjoy a win tonight. A lot of guys played well so it was a good team victory.”
With 21 points and 5 rebounds, no doubt Reed played a significant part in the Tigers’ victory over the Demon Deacons. Brownell said he has been pleased with Reed’s confidence as the season has progressed.
“He played well. He’s just becoming more confident and more comfortable out there,” the Clemson coach said. “He’s also becoming much better defensively. He didn’t have great habits when he got here. He’s really improved. He’s becoming a pretty good defensive player.”
Reed spoke on how his confidence has allowed him to perform so well.
“I came into tonight very confident coming off of a losing streak. If you play with confidence, you play pretty well,” the sophomore said. “We played with a chip on our shoulders. Wake is a good team, a top-50 RPI team, so this was a really good win for us.”
Though Clemson is now 4-9 in ACC play, it has lost by five or less points in six of their nine defeats. Despite the recent struggle the Tigers experienced, Brownell said his players are still working hard and remaining focused.
“There’s been no signs in practice that our guys aren’t still competing or working hard and trying to hang in there,” he said. “I think it speaks to the character of our guys. It is hard. I think it’s harder than people realize. You pour so much into every game, and lose on the last second shot or miss a shot to win a game, there’s an emotional toll. There’s no question it can drain you physically as well, but emotionally it’s had to keep your battery up, recharge. It helps us a little bit having depth. That give us energy.”
Brownell said Clemson’s coaching staff has switched up the routine they had been in. He found that changing practice has kept his players fresh and mentally attentive.
“Doing different things, waking them up in the morning, getting them over here when their focus is completely on basketball, their mind is freer and focused, we’ve done some of that in the last three weeks to make sure our guys are focused and we’re thinking about the right things,” Brownell said. “We break things into smaller time frames when we bring them over here. I think that’s really helped keep our team fresh and mentally alive during a very difficult part of the season.”
Further, Reed reassured the team is still practicing hard and not losing heart.
“We keep coming in, practicing every day hard and try to come out on top with a win,” he said.
Despite recent games, Brownell believes his team has improved. Most of all, he reiterated how happy he is his team gets to enjoy a sweet victory.
“I think our guys are just trying to deal with the next game. I think our team has gotten better, hasn’t always shown in wins, but I think we’ve done some things that prove we’re a pretty good team. It’s just nice to see a win go our way tonight,” Brownell said.
Clemson will travel to the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Florida to face Miami (16-8, 6-6 ACC) on Saturday. Tip is set for noon.