CLEMSON – For the second time in ACC play, Clemson coach Brad Brownell is asking his team to dig deep at Littlejohn Coliseum and rebound from a losing streak.
Brownell says he doesn’t normally get caught-up emotionally in the wins and losses, but Thursday’s buzzer-beater defeat at Florida State was “painful.”
For his Tigers (10-8, 2-4 ACC) to recover today against Virginia Tech (11-7, 2-3), after back-to-back tough road losses, is no easy task.
“People don’t understand – (they ask) how can you not be excited about playing?” Brownell said. “Guys are excited about playing, but the mental stress and all that you put in to get ready for a game – the preparation, the film watching, the walkthroughs (and) practice time.
Brownell faces former CU coach James Johnson
“When the margin of error is smaller, those things all need to be going well to play your best. Most of the time, we need to play our best to win.”
Part of Brownell’s frustration has come in late-game scenarios, where his team has yet to win a game decided by five points or less (0-3, all in conference play).
Time ticking late at FSU, Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels says the plan was to get the ball to senior-leader Devin Booker, but the big man wasn’t open, forcing an off-target three-pointer from McDaniels before a shot clock violation.
“We just don’t have guys that feel 100 percent comfortable making a play at the end of the game,” Brownell said.
The rest was a history the Tigers are ready to put behind them, a Michael Snaer game-winner off the glass from three – the first time Clemson trailed in over 27 minutes.
“We had a lot of things where this was going to be a great win for our team,” said Brownell. “…We were overcoming some adversity. In a blink of an eye, a couple bad things happen and it’s over. You’ve lost.”
McDaniels described the team mood as disappointed, but looking to turn the page.
“I still have confidence in this team,” McDaniels said. “I believe we can come out and play hard and get a win, but we just have to stay focused defensively and our offense will come.”
Returning to Littlejohn for today’s 1 p.m. start is Virginia Tech’s James Johnson, who was Brownell’s top assistant for all of 12 days from late April to early May, before returning to Blacksburg, Va. for his first head coaching position.
The Hokies started 7-0, but have since lost seven of their last 11 games.
Brownell said Johnson’s style resembles his predecessor at Virginia Tech, Seth Greenberg, but more up-tempo, contrasting with the Tigers statistically.
They rank in the top-40 nationally in possessions per game, at 71.4, and Clemson only allows 61.9 on average (top-15). The Hokies are fourth in scoring (68), but dead-last in scoring defense (76.8) in conference play – the Tigers are last in points (57.3) and third in points allowed (58.8).
Virginia Tech senior guard Erick Green leads the nation in points per game (25.2). He scored 35 of the Hokies’ 58 points in a 74-58 home loss to Virginia last time out.
“Erick Green is an incredible player,” Brownell said. “Best transition guard, maybe in the country right now. You just don’t stop him when he gets going.”
Clemson has lost two of its last three against Virginia Tech, including last year’s ACC Tournament, but the Tigers have won the last two and 5-of-7 at home in the series.
The game is being televised on the ACC Network, which can be seen locally on WLOS.