The ACC's fine line: lapses add up to 'not good enough' for Brownell's Tigers

Women's track team's focus pays off in fourth straight ACC indoor title

Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell reacts after a called foul against N.C. State.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell reacts after a called foul against N.C. State.

Clemson's Tigers put together some stretches of pretty good basketball in their Saturday road test against Maryland.

But at the bottom line, pretty good wasn't good enough.

"We had spurts of good play, I thought we had about 3 or 4 stretches for six minutes where we played well," said Brownell after the Tigers' 72-59 loss. "We didn’t play bad today; we just didn’t play well enough to win."

That, of course, has been the problem throughout an ACC season that has landed the Tigers with a 13-13 record, and a 5-9 league mark, with four games left to play.

This is not a bad basketball team, given its youth and lack of a consistent go-to scorer. Brownell has once again gotten a lot out of what he has to work with.

But when a team relies so heavily on its defense for success, momentary lapses in focus and intensity prove costly, as they did Saturday against a Maryland team with the tools to be a better-than-.500 ACC also-ran.

"Defensively we weren’t sharp," said Brownell. "We were a little bit slow at times. We gave up three offensive rebounds on free throws, and we didn’t win enough tough plays.

"Against a team this big and strong, that was really my message to the guys: ‘this is a physical game, the Maryland team is big and strong, the post players are grinders, and even their guards try to get down and drive you.’ I just didn’t think we matched their physicality the full 40 minutes and the times we didn’t, they got easy baskets."

Freshman Jordan Roper, who has emerged as one of the Tigers' most consistent performers over the second half of the season, agreed.

“We just didn’t make a lot of tough plays," Roper said. "Maryland got a lot of 50-50 balls and we didn’t knock down the shots that we needed to.

"It was an early game and whoever came out fast was going to win the game. We weren’t ready to fight today. Throughout the game, (Maryland) fought more.”

The ACC's 18-game grind gets no easier for the Tigers.

North Carolina visits Littlejohn Coliseum Thursday night, determined to polish its NCAA resume and overtake Duke for the No. 2 spot in the ACC. Clemson then plays at Virginia Tech, is back home for senior night against Boston College, and then finishes at Coral Gables for Miami's senior night.

**********************

Talent is one thing; focus is another.

Clemson's track teams showed both during two days of competition at the ACC indoor championship meet.

The women exerted their dominance in the sprints and hurdles and turned Virginia Tech's Rector Gym into their playground on Saturday.

Sophomore Dezerea Bryant swept both the 60 and 200-meter dashes en route to women's MVP honors, Brianna Rollins, Brittney Waller and Marlena Wesh won their specialty events, and Stormy Kendrick became one of the most decorated athletes in school history.

The Tigers won their fourth straight ACC indoor title in a runaway, and will go for their fourth straight indoor-outdoor sweep later this spring.

In two weeks, Clemson - which spent three weeks earlier this season ranked No. 1 in the nation - will travel to Fayetteville, Ark. as one of the favorites for the NCAA title.

The men's performance was impressive, as well. Clemson climbed to third (after a string of fifth and sixth-place finishes) and appear again poised to challenge Virginia Tech and Florida State for ACC supremacy.

It's not been an easy season for the Tigers in the aftermath of program director Lawrence Johnson's resignation after Clemson's discovery of NCAA violations in the program.

What lies ahead for the program on that front is uncertain; but Clemson's athletes kept to their business and performed throughout the season at a consistently high level.

"When you have that much success, the main key is knowing how to focus," said interim program director Shawn Cobey of the Tiger women. "They were driven and determined that they were leaving Blacksburg with four straight ACC championships.

"They’re not only great leaders that know how to compete, but they’re also a very special group of young ladies. The seniors have four championships - you don’t see that achievement very often. It’s something they’ll look back on and remember for the rest of their lives.”

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Comments » 6

waran writes:

I am now beginning to get disappointed with Coach Brownell and his staff. This team has not improved over the season. We are not focusing on building a Team for the future by giving our younger players more experience, e.g., Roper. The Coach has been there for a few years. Its time we got back to NCAA next year in 2014 or we find someone else. Clemson is not only a Football University, it is also a Basketball U. Time to get a CEO Coach and keep Brownell to coach defensive skills.

miketiger71 writes:

The biggest issue is that Brownell and staff aren't able to recruit ACC caliber players. Until we can, we are relegated to no better than 0.500 seasons or worse in the ACC and no post season

richardcd writes:

I disagree that the team hasn't improved over the year. They have improved, but the competition is better. Brad Brownell can coach players to be better. What he has to work with is the problem.

If Clemson is going to successfully participate in basketball in the ACC, big changes need to be made. I don't know what these changes are, but the administration should know. Whatever they are, they should lead to recruiting a higher caliber player. The Maryland coach has been there two years and already has better players than Clemson. If we are not going to make the changes that lead to basketball championships, we should give up basketball and put the money into a sport we do intend to win. I'm tired of losing.

michtiger writes:

Lot of good comments. I am in between. I thought I was seeing progress with the team i.e. the younger players but somewhere in the middle it seems they regressed. For example look at the last several games and how Hall has has become a liability in TOs and shooting, McDaniel was listless against Miami and only showed up in last few min. of game. Roper seems to be the only one with energy. 4 years with Booker has netted an average player and God only knows what 4 years of Jennings has produced. Have watched almost every game and the feeling I get is a lot of tension in the team, especially with Hall and Coach. Over the last several gamess I have asked non CU people to watch game with me. Every one says they look confused, tentative and poorly coached. I worry about next year. Roper and McDaniel ( if they stay ) are solid. Hall probably is not the point guard, he was not in HS but he will not push roper out of the 2 guard. No big man and as most have observed we seldom get the Fr that walks in and excels. I do not accept the bad luck theory on close games, yes it happens to all teams but when it happens over and over something is amiss. Notice all are with good teams which probably means they come in not expecting much and playing down to our level. Hard to be optomistic about the future under brownell. We have no wins this year that NCAA would consider good, but losses at Coastal and at home would be bad losses. I like the coach but I have this gut feel he is like Bowden and that never worked out.

waran writes:

in response to michtiger:

Lot of good comments. I am in between. I thought I was seeing progress with the team i.e. the younger players but somewhere in the middle it seems they regressed. For example look at the last several games and how Hall has has become a liability in TOs and shooting, McDaniel was listless against Miami and only showed up in last few min. of game. Roper seems to be the only one with energy. 4 years with Booker has netted an average player and God only knows what 4 years of Jennings has produced. Have watched almost every game and the feeling I get is a lot of tension in the team, especially with Hall and Coach. Over the last several gamess I have asked non CU people to watch game with me. Every one says they look confused, tentative and poorly coached. I worry about next year. Roper and McDaniel ( if they stay ) are solid. Hall probably is not the point guard, he was not in HS but he will not push roper out of the 2 guard. No big man and as most have observed we seldom get the Fr that walks in and excels. I do not accept the bad luck theory on close games, yes it happens to all teams but when it happens over and over something is amiss. Notice all are with good teams which probably means they come in not expecting much and playing down to our level. Hard to be optomistic about the future under brownell. We have no wins this year that NCAA would consider good, but losses at Coastal and at home would be bad losses. I like the coach but I have this gut feel he is like Bowden and that never worked out.

I am in total agreement. I like Coach Brownell, see my old posts, but I love Clemson basketball more. I am not a person who believes changing the Coach is the first solution everytime we lose. But as Michtiger has explained, our team looks confused and poorly coached.

Stopping basketball at Clemson is not the solution. I dont know what can be done but we should not be reluctant to allocate more resources to basketball if needed (e.g, to get a better coach???)

Milton Jennings... he does well once every 5 games or so. Maybe in another 2 games?

HoopsMan writes:

I have felt from the time they hired Brownell that he took on more than he could handle. He came out of a league he did well in but he didnt have any groundbreaking seasons or have any real resume attractions. Obviously there is something wrong with the admin at Clemson, since they cant keep guys like Shaka Smart who is tearing it up at VCU and ranked at 24 this week, and Ron Bradley who was inducted into the Big South Conference Hall of Fame and Radford University Hall of Fame for being the winningest coach in school history and getting Radford to the NCAA tourney for the first time ever in school history. Apparently after I did some research, Bradley had coached at Maryland with Lefty back in the 80's and did well, and then at Radford had numerous 20 win seasons, one of those with only 1 senior. He also came up with the full court press that worked so well here and that is the same press Shaka uses if you watch tape. Smart even credited Bradley with coming up with it in a coaches clinic last year. If these are the guys we are losing and we are hiring guys like Brownell who may be younger but certainly isn't as experienced then all we can hope for is a basement seat in the ACC. Yes he has a young team, but there are plenty of coaches that can take young teams and be very productive. Pull up Bradley's stats at Radford for one example, since he was here at Clemson for 7 years and built the program with OP. His coaching record for 16 years as a head coach still were just as good as Brownells winning percentage for only 8 years as a coach when he came to Clemson. We had a winning combo here for a while and for some reason we lost it. I suggest we call Smart, Bradley and someone other than OP since he might bail in the middle of the night and get them to come back. Brownell had his time and he did better with the guys he got from OP than he is doing with his own recruits. This was a bad hire. Young team or not he is making all the wrong decisions and costing us games.

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