For Brad Brownell, it's not rocket science to figure out why Clemson leads the ACC and ranks among the nation's leaders in free throw percentage: better shooters shoot free throws better.
And because of the way the Tigers are playing offensively, Clemson's best shooters are doing a better job of getting themselves to the free throw line.
“Our percentage is higher this year because we've got better shooters shooting more shots,” said Brownell during the ACC coaches' teleconference. “Last year we played more through Devin Booker and Milt Jennings, and K.J. (McDaniels) was probably our third option. Now he's become our main option.
“Rod has improved, and both those guys are looking to attack off the perimeter when they get opportunities.”
Going into its game at Virginia Tech tonight, the Tigers have made 214 of 283 from the line, for 75.6 percent. Both McDaniels and Hall have ranked among the ACC's top free throw shooters all season. Brownell said the numbers reflect both increased opportunity and improved execution at the line.
“Both kids have put in a lot of hard work on their skills and their shooting especially,” Brownell said. “Both are improved shooters - not just from the line, but from the perimeter. It's a matter of feeling a little more comfortable now that they're juniors. The pace of the game is slowing down for them and they're more confident in attacking and trying to make more plays."
Brownell said the Tigers have been able to adjust to new rules intended to cut down on physicality and put some flow back into the college game.
"In terms of the rules, we've tried to adjust as well as we can,” Brownell said. “We still defend hard, but we're not playing with reckless abandon where we're fouling all the time. We've had to back off on certain things, the way we do things with ball screens sometimes and in guarding perimeter players. If you're not careful, you can get in your own way with fouls - putting teams in the bonus and fouling your guys out because of the way things are called.”
So far this season, the Tigers have shot fewer free throws than most teams in the ACC, but are converting at a higher percentage. Brownell said it will be interesting to see “if things loosen up a little bit as we get into conference play.”
“The officials are adjusting to the new emphasis, as well,” Brownell said. “As a coach, you've had to be cognizant of what's happening - you couldn't afford to just approach things the same way, otherwise you were going to have some problems."