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.”