CLEMSON - Brad Brownell's Clemson teams have always played tough defense.
This year, however, they're on another level on their way to an 8-2 start.
The Tigers lead the nation in points allowed (51.7), surrendering the least in Brownell's four seasons by over seven points a game currently (7.3). They are also tops in defensive field goal percentage (.347), second in defensive points per possession (.820) and fourth in blocks percentage (13.5).
After taking the week off for exams, Clemson posted its best defensive effort yet against Furman last time out, holding the Paladins to 35 points (lowest since 1996 for the Tigers; 28, Wofford).
"We really pride ourselves on defense," sophomore guard Jordan Roper said. "It's a part of our identity. It's a part of Coach Brownell's philosophy. We're a hard-nosed defensive team. We really stress defense every gameplan."
The players buying in certainly helps.
"It means our guys are paying attention to what we're doing," Brownell said. "We're proud of that. Really just trying to play well in the games. I think our guys understand that's what we're trying to do to be successful. Hopefully it gives you a little bit of an identity. Good teams have an identity and that helps us."
So far, that emphasis on "D" hasn't necessarily meant a slow-tempo, low-scoring Clemson offense.
Pre-ACC play, the Tigers are averaging a points per game total (68.6) higher than any finish in the Brownell era, ranking 12th nationally in scoring margin (16.9). Clemson put up only 61.5 points a contest last season.
"We're not a racehorse basketball by any stretch," Brownell said, "but we're not trying to walk the ball up every possession. When the other team scores, we jog it up and if it's a miss or steal and we're running to score. You're not going to have as many possessions when on one side of the ball you're playing defense for 20 seconds.
"Just aren't going to be as many possessions in the game so most of our games end in the 50 possession range or low 60s. That's OK."
At Auburn (4-3) Thursday night, Clemson takes its second SEC road trip of the season for an 8 p.m. tipoff.
In a 74-68 loss at Arkansas earlier this season, junior swingman K.J. McDaniels posted a career-high 27 points with 11 rebounds. McDaniels is among the ACC's leaders averaging 17.6 points per game.
The SEC Tigers run a three-guard lineup with senior Chris Denson (19.9 PPG) and junior K.T. Harrell (18.4 PPG) leading the way. After a 4-1 start, Auburn has last two in a row by 24 points per game (Iowa State and Illinois).
As a program, they haven't finished with a winning record since 2008-09 (24-12).
Under Brownell, Clemson is 5-4 in non-conference road games, splitting the last two.
The Tigers won't play again for 11 days afterward until hosting VMI for a final tuneup before ACC play in the new year (Jan. 4, at Boston College).