Can the Tigers keep it going as they look for their 10th straight win today?
After going 17-16 a year ago and winning just six games in ACC play, it is hard to imagine that at one point Clemson’s basketball team had a nine-game winning streak and was in position to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
But as Brad Brownell said on Friday, last year’s team was a little snake bit and for some reason just did not make the critical plays when they needed to at times. Of their 16 losses in 2016-’17, 13 were by seven points or less, 12 were by six points or less, 9 were by five points or less, 7 by four points or less, 6 by three points or less and 5 by two points or less, including three decided by one point.
“There were some times when things just did not go our way and sometimes they were our fault and then other times it was tough luck,” Brownell said as the Tigers get set to host Louisville at noon today at Littlejohn Coliseum. “We missed a shot. We missed a free throw or something like that. The hardest part about basketball is a guy makes a shot and you lose and everybody thinks your players are no good, your coaches are no good and your team is no good.”
However, Brownell feels that was not the case and that is why he is so defensive about last year’s team.
“I don’t think we were a bad team,” he said. “We won a lot of games in non-conference and we were extremely close in the best league in college basketball. We weren’t good enough last year but we were not a bad team.
“We were a good team that bad some bad breaks. Hopefully, this year, we get a few of those breaks and hopefully we make a few more of those plays and I do think when you have some good things happen to you and you make some plays, sometimes that does help with your confidence and hopefully that continues. We are optimistic that will continue for us this year.”
Those things have been happening for the Tigers (13-1, 2-0 ACC) during their current nine-game winning streak. Clemson has won in every way imaginable during its win streak.
The Tigers rallied on the road to beat a ranked Florida team. It rallied on the road to take down Ohio State. It dominated rival South Carolina and NC State at home and then it held off a Boston College rally on the road to get an early-season ACC road win.
Unlike last year, Clemson is making the plays when it has needed to the most and subsequently is off to its best start overall and in ACC play since the 2008-’09 season. Brownell credits the good start to poise in some ways and preparation as well.
He also feels having a veteran and more experienced ball team is helping a lot too.
“We have an older team so we have some guys where we can make some adjustments and our guys have responded to that whether it is making an adjustment because we are playing somebody stylistic that is different,” he said. “We don’t play the same all the time and having the flexibility to do that, whether it is within a game, making some adjustments at halftime or in timeouts and our guys being able to make adjustments on the fly because we are older and they’ve bought into that a lot, and that has been good.
“But then also at the end of the day I think it is just the poise to make big plays when big plays need to be made. Whether it is down at Florida at the end of a game down there or whether it is late against Boston College when they are making a run and we have to make offensive plays to continue to win. I think our guys have done a good job of just withstanding some runs by some other teams, playing with poise and finishing some games.”