Brad Brownell looking for positive reinforcement as Tigers tackle stretch run

'You can play well, fight your tail off, lose at the end. And when that happens a few times in a row, it becomes a little difficult'

After loosing his footing, Clemson's Jordan Roper, left, dives for the ball in front of Georgia Tech's Brandon Reed, right, in an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Photo by Mark Crammer

After loosing his footing, Clemson's Jordan Roper, left, dives for the ball in front of Georgia Tech's Brandon Reed, right, in an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Five ACC losses by five points or less, including two on buzzer-beating last-second three-pointers.

Win just those two, and the Tigers are 7-7 in the ACC and looking ahead at a very different home-stretch run.

But at 5-9, with the season winding to a close, Brad Brownell is left looking for some positive reinforcement to carry into Clemson's off-season.

"We need to try to win a couple of these," Brownell said Monday during the ACC coaches' teleconference. "I know that sounds easy. But we need one or two to fall our way here so we can have some positive feedback.

"You can play well, fight your tail off, lose at the end. And when that happens a few times in a row, it becomes a little difficult for you, for your guys to keep their spirits where they need to be, because our margin for error is just not as great as some teams that we're playing."

For Clemson to win, Brownell said, "we've got to have everything going in the right direction."

"I'm proud of the way our guys have competed. I think we've competed very well and played a lot of teams very hard. We don't have as much to show for it here in the last month, and that's the frustrating part of it.

"I'd like to tell you there's one thing, we need to shoot better, score a few more points, make free throws. Certainly that's part of it for our team, but we've also had little things that creep in, whether it's rebound problems in some games, some transition defense in a certain game. It's been one or two things that we take care of, then it tends to rear its ugly head every once in a while."

Youth is, to a considerable degree, part of the equation - a reason rather than an excuse. But, Brownell noted Monday, Clemson isn't the only youthful team in the ACC.

"I think by and large, our guys have done a pretty good job of maintaining focus for game plans and we've improved in some of that area, just being disciplined, making a few less errors on some things that we talked about through scouting that earlier in the year we weren't quite as good at," he said. "But I don't now if we've gotten any more comfortable out there.

"I think some of our guys have. I think by this time, we've played 26 games, played a bunch of ACC games. Everybody's got young players. But they've been hardened. They're fine. They should be ready to go and make plays, make winning plays.

"Certainly you saw that with the Wake young players winning a big game against Miami. Guys really are freshmen, but I don't think they're freshmen out there anymore. They're guys that have gotten enough experience that they should be guys that you can count on."

The Tigers, he said, are getting there.

"As long as our spirits are good and we're playing the right way," Brownell said, "we'll be a very tough team to play against."

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