SAN DIEGO — While some schools used the 90 minutes Saturday to practice at Viejas Arena for today’s second-round action in the NCAA Tournament in San Diego, Clemson practiced at a local high school instead.
“We like to get off our feet as often as we can,” head coach Brad Brownell said.
Brownell hopes the Tigers’ extra time off will pay dividends when the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Regional takes on No. 4 seed Auburn at 7:10 p.m. The winner will move on to the Sweet 16 next week in Omaha, while the loser’s season will come to an end.
“We like to be done 24 hours ahead of game time,” Brownell said. “We play tomorrow at four, so we wanted to be done with everything as soon as we can.”
Clemson is coming off an impressive, 79-68, win over New Mexico State on Friday night, a game which saw the Tigers (24-9) shoot 56 percent from the field, while guards Shelton Mitchell, Gabe DeVoe and Marcquise Reed combined to score 60 of the Tigers’ 79 points.
However, this is not the first time this season Clemson has had less than 48 hours in between games. Sunday will mark the fifth time they have done it.
The Tigers have won three of the previous four. They beat North Carolina A&T on Nov.12, Miami on Jan. 13 and then North Carolina on Jan. 30. The one loss came to Temple in the Charleston Classic on Nov. 19.
“I think that is really going to help us going in,” guard Gabe DeVoe said. “We have done it a couple of times this season. In times like this, it is really important for you to take care of your body and make sure you are doing the right things off the court so you can be able to play games like this in back-to-back situations.”
Clemson has trainers on deck to give players’ treatment. Brownell met with the team Saturday morning to go over film before practicing for about an hour before heading over to Viejas Arena for interviews and press conferences. They met for about an hour last night as well.
“We have to be smart,” guard Shelton Mitchell said. “We had like a lite walkthrough today, kind of. It was a lite little practice to learn what (Auburn) likes to do and watch film. But, like Coach says, it is always mental. It does not always have to be physical. So really, it is about watching a lot of film and paying attention in the meetings and stuff like that.”
When he noticed late in the season his team was hitting a wall after playing so many games in so many days, Brownell changed up his practices a little bit. He went a little less contact and had a few more noncontact practices.
The Clemson coach said it helped because they were putting a lot of stress on their guards, who play a good majority of the game each night and sometimes all 40 minutes.
“I just worried about those guys being able to hold up,” he said. “I think we did a good job with that. That was the one thing with Donte (Grantham’s) injury. We are not as deep as we were at the beginning of the season. I think now we are doing fine. I think guys are excited and we are ready to play.”