When the ACC Network replayed Clemson’s first win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill a few weeks back, Brad Brownell felt like he was watching it for the very first time.
“I watched it as a fan. I was not watching as someone who was watching it critically,” Clemson’s basketball coach said to The Clemson Insider earlier this week.
Obviously, Brownell had re-watched the Tigers’ 79-76 overtime victory over North Carolina on Jan. 11 before. The win ended their 0-59 mark at Chapel Hill, the longest home-winning streak by one team over another in NCAA history.
However, in the other times Brownell watched, he watched as Clemson’s head coach. He had to break the game down and use it to teach his players. It was not the same experience as he had when he was at home watching it from his sofa.
“After the game, I am still watching it critically as a coach who is clipping almost the good, bad and ugly clips that we do to show our team,” Brownell said. “So, it was great to just sit and watch it.”
What made it even more enjoyable for the Tigers’ coach was the way his team responded to being down in a tough atmosphere, where the program had no success, and came back to win the game.
“North Carolina played very well, especially in the first half,” Brownell said. “I thought we played just okay for large segments of the game. It wasn’t one of our better performances. But we hung in there. I thought we weathered the storm a couple of times. I thought Al’s basket just before halftime was a big three.
“Then we, obviously, made the great run at the end to win it. I thought, what really made me proud as a coach, was the way our guys kept fighting. To come back and execute the last two minutes of regulation and then the five minutes of overtime, I thought we played seven great minutes of basketball. I thought we played elite level basketball in the last seven minutes of the game to win.”
Al-Amir Dawes’ three-pointer right at the end of the first half, pulled Clemson within 10 points at the break, 39-29.
The Tigers went on a 12-2 run, after falling behind 68-58 with 2:08 to play, as they forced three turnovers in the last two minutes of regulation. Nine of their 12 points were scored by Aamir Simms, who made a game-tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.
Clemson used the paint in overtime to surprise the Tar Heels, as it used backdoor cuts for easy layups. Simms finished the night with a team-high 20 points. The Tigers also got 17 points from Tevin Mack and John Newman.
“I was very proud of my players to be able to execute under that kind of pressure,” Brownell said. “Obviously, there was some stress there. We all knew and, we all heard about some of the other Clemson collapses and opportunities to win games there that never could get done. So, to be able to be the first team to do that, we are very proud of that.”
What made the whole experience ever better, was a text message thread the players and coaches had as they were watching the replay together.
“It was fun watching some of the guys give each other a hard time. It was great,” Brownell said.
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