Stingy young Tigers building on Brad Brownell's defensive foundation

'That's the area I coach the hardest. I'm probably more of a defensive coordinator than an offensive coordinator'

Clemson Basketball - Head coach Brad Brownell and Adonis Filer

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson Basketball - Head coach Brad Brownell and Adonis Filer

Move the ball, and attack the gaps.

Brad Brownell wrote the book, or, rather, the instructional DVD - 'Gap Attack Zone Offense,' available from Championship Productions and Amazon.

He arrived at Clemson with a reputation for putting his ideas on motion offense into successful practice, winning championships and accolades.

Underpinning all that his teams accomplished on the offensive end of the floor, however, was a strong defensive foundation.

Such has proved to be the case so far with perhaps Brownell's youngest team ever - a collection of two seniors and a dozen freshmen and sophomores who have won four of their first five games and will go against Purdue Wednesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

The Tigers have held three of their first four opponents under 50 points, and have yet to allow more than 57 - that against normally high-scoring, 17th-ranked Gonzaga.

"It's funny, when I got the job what people wanted to talk about was motion offense," said Brownell after Clemson's 59-44 victory over Marist Sunday in the final round of the Old Spice Classic. "We do run that at times, but probably not as much as I ran it at Wilmington or Wright State.

"But if you've followed my teams through the years, we've always been pretty good defensively. That's the area I coach the hardest. I'm probably more of a defensive coordinator than an offensive coordinator."

Brownell said his emphasis is reflected in the way the Tigers play, and by what freshmen learn early to prioritize.

"Sometimes the team takes on the personality of the head coach," he said. "They know I have a short leash on defensive mistakes. We really work hard at it."

The Tigers currently rank fifth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 49.6 points per game. Brownell's first Clemson team ranked 24th nationally with a 61.4 defensive average. The Tigers improved to 60.6 last season, and ranked 27th in the nation.

Brownell said defense can help carry the Tigers this season as they develop their offensive game.

"We know we have to get better offensively," he said. "With this team we've had to simplify things, and we'll need to keep playing simply because we're just so young it makes it difficult to do some things.

"But I really like the way our team has competed. Our effort has been very good. If we continue to get that kind of defensive effort, then we're going to have chances this year."

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