CLEMSON – Brad Brownell didn’t show his Clemson team the tape of Thursday’s 78-41 blowout defeat at Virginia.
He says it’s a matter of toeing the line between critiquing and moving forward with only eight regular season games left, starting with a 1 p.m. tipoff against North Carolina State (16-7, 5-5 ACC) in Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday.
“We didn’t do much of anything well,” Brownell said. “Playing-wise (and) coaching-wise. There’s a point where you understand that and try to learn from it, but you also can’t dwell on it.”
The Tigers (12-10, 4-6) dropped to 0-5 on the road and last in scoring offense in conference play (59.3 points per game).
“You have to be careful not to overreact one way or the other and go change everything because you had a bad performance,” said Brownell. “This late in the season, you have to tweak some things...We’ll try to make the appropriate changes for N.C. State and try to get a better mindset.
“We got to somehow develop more confidence offensively.”
Losing two then winning two in a row has been the one consistent pattern in ACC action for the Tigers, with inconsistent points production individually.
In the last four games, senior forward Milton Jennings has scored a career-high 28 points (in a win over Virginia Tech) and also two points (in the Virginia loss). Thursday, the Cavaliers locked down on Clemson’s other senior and leading-scorer Devin Booker, holding him to seven points and just five shots and a single trip to the free throw line.
Booker posted a career-high 27 (making 13-of-18 shots from the field) in the 66-62 loss against the Wolfpack back on Jan. 20 at PNC Arena. Sophomore point guard Rod Hall added a season-best 16 points, but has struggled lately, with one assist, seven turnovers and five points combined in the last two games.
The Tigers fell behind 13-2 to start the first matchup, tied the game with 3:37 left and were within a possession with nine seconds to go before Hall slipped against a full-court press for a turnover.
“We had a very spirited game with those guys coming in a couple weeks ago,” Brownell said. “Had a chance at their place to win a road game and didn’t finish it. Thought our guys played well.”
Since downing rivals UNC and Duke at home, N.C. State has dropped three-straight, losing preseason All-ACC guard Lorenzo Brown to an ankle injury in the first against Virginia. A game later, they fell at home by a tip-in with 0.8 seconds left, 79-78, and the Blue Devils exacted revenge Thursday in a 98-85 thrashing.
“They’re a little bit wounded from losing a couple certainly difficult games,” said Brownell. “…We can’t worry about their mindset, what they’re thinking – what they’re worrying about. We have to focus on how to play better basketball.”
In Brown’s absence, freshman guard Tyler Lewis has picked up the slack, with 13 points and six assists per in the last two contests. He averaged only 9.2 minutes per game previously this season. Brown’s status for Sunday is still yet to be determined.
N.C. State forward C.J. Leslie leads the high-scoring attack (15.7), while fellow big man Richard Howell is atop conference action in rebounds (12.4) and offensive rebounds (4.9) per game.
The Wolfpack have had their fair share of road woes, losing three-straight by a combined six points. As a program, they haven’t won in Clemson since 2005-06, with a 72-69 overtime loss last season.
Brownell hopes to have just the environment in Littlejohn to keep that trend going for a fifth-straight home win in the series and this season.
“It’s not the just negativity that your team faces (on the road),” he said. “It’s the positive feeling that kids get from making a shot at home and the crowd going crazy. And your next defensive possession, you have a little more spring in your step.”
“…That positive feedback is that shot in the arm of confidence that you as a coach are trying to give them all the time.”