Playing tough defense has Clemson back in contention

Playing tough defense has Clemson back in contention


Playing tough defense has Clemson back in contention


Tigers have held their last 2 opponents to 79 combined points

Don’t look now, but here comes the Clemson men’s basketball team.

The Tigers won their third straight game Wednesday night in Atlanta with a 65-42 win at Georgia Tech. The victory over the Yellow Jackets sets up a crucial Atlantic Coast Conference contest with No. 11 Virginia Tech Saturday at noon from Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson.

If the Tigers can notch their fourth straight win on Saturday, it would put them at 5-5 in the ACC standings and right back in the conversation as an NCAA Tournament team.

However, after a 1-5 start in conference play, continuing to just win games and gain confidence is the most important thing to Clemson. If it does that, then everything else will take care of itself.

“Hopefully, it just builds confidence as much as anything,” Brownell said to the media following Wednesday’s game. “It’s not easy on players and this is an unforgiving league. You can have a great week of practice, play two games against very good teams and play well and lose.

“That’s not easy when you’re coaching to keep the guys’ morale going. I’m proud of our guys. We have an older team with some pride, so I think when we were 1-5 our pride took over. Now that we’ve won three in a row, we feel a little better about who we are and how we’re playing. We just want to continue that. The best way to do that is to have really good practices and we’ve had really good practices throughout most of the ACC season.”

And those good practices have led to some great performances. The win over the Yellow Jackets was the Tigers third straight by double digits. That’s the first time the program has done that since the 1974-’75 team won four straight by double digits against Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia Tech and NC State.

The common theme in all three wins has been the play of the Clemson defense. The Tigers held Pittsburgh to 69 points, while they have allowed just 79 combined in their wins over Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.

The 79 points are the fewest Clemson (14-8, 4-5 ACC) has allowed in back-to-back games vs. ACC opponents in history.

Georgia Tech (11-12, 3-7 ACC) made just 13 of 43 shots (30.2 percent) from the field, while Clemson blocked seven shots and had seven steals.

“We go back in transition. We were being physical and doing what we could to make them uncomfortable in the rhythm and flow,” Brownell said. “They do a really great job of turning their offense over on you. If you’re not careful, you give up layups. Whether it’s a back cut, a cut off a post… we just wanted to make sure we took away the layups and make them make plays.”

In their 27-point over Wake Forest, the Tigers blocked 10 shots and had eight steals, while holding the Demon Deacons to 23.7 percent shooting. They had seven steals and four blocked shots in the win over Pitt.

“Our guys have really bought into what we’re trying to do,” Brownell said. “Our margin for error is… we’re not one of the highest scoring teams in the league. We really have to click on all cylinders defensively and make it hard for people.

“We had an unbelievable first half against Pitt and not a very good second half. We defended Wake well and we defended tonight very well. We understand that playing that way gives us a much better chance to win. Hopefully our guys are going to continue to do that.”



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