Thanks to Clemson’s 81-59 victory over Samford on Saturday, the Tigers are off to the best start the program has had since the 2008-’09 season.
Following the win, the media spoke to head coach Brad Brownell, point guard Shelton Mitchell, and forward Elijah Thomas.
Here is what we heard:
Clemson’s (8-1) got off to a sluggish start, leading just 55-53 with 9:29 to play in the game. The Tigers struggled to get their offense rolling and seemed to miss many easy shots and shot just 9-for-36 from behind the arc.
“Hard fought today,” Brownell said. “They were playing pretty packed in, in a zone, and we just missed a million shots. That’s not easy to coach or fix or play. We just had to stick with it.”
Mitchell said a tough Samford defense and lack of consistency on offense really got to the team’s mentality.
“I think we were all kind of down because everyone felt like we were missing easy shots.” Mitchell said. “That negative energy kind of messed up our team mentally. Once we hit a couple shots and coach got onto us I think we got our rhythm back.
“We felt like their defense was so packed in, it was so hard to get in there and make plays. We didn’t want to force it, and we were still getting easy shots, they just weren’t falling.”
There was a turning point in the game, however. That was when Brownell called a second-half timeout and gave a speech that sparked a fire in the team.
“I got after them,” Brownell said. “It was the first time in a while that I really had to get after them. The game It’s not always how you want it to be. The game isn’t always easy. I made them look down at the other bench. Those guys were feeling pretty good about themselves right now. And the longer this goes on, the more you are going to allow them to believe they’re going to win, and you better snap out of it and get after them right away. Thankfully we did.”
“Coach talking to us in the huddle, he gave us a pretty good motivational speech,” Thomas said. “But at the same time, Samford is a really good team. We just had to mask their energy.”
After the huddle, the Tigers outscored Samford 26-6, including a 19-2 run. They pulled away by having five guys in double figures scoring, including Shelton Mitchell’s career-high 20 points as well as Elijah Thomas’ 11 points.
Clemson’s next test comes next Saturday when it takes on No. 5 Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic Tournament in Sunrise, Fla.