Quotes, Notes & Numbers: Coaches agree, it was 'a terrific basketball game'

Belmont's Rick Byrd: 'I am honestly happy for Brad, he’s one of the real good guys in this business...I hope they win it all'

Clemson coach Brad Brownell celebrates with his player after the game.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson coach Brad Brownell celebrates with his player after the game.

Clemson's Brad Brownell

“That was obviously a terrific basketball game. The ebbs and flows of the game were really unique. I have a lot of respect for Belmont, their players and coach. Coach (Rick) Byrd and I have known each other for many years, back before our games against each other were very important. I just have a lot of respect for the way his kids play the game. They competed as hard as anybody we played this year, they were very scrappy.

“I’m proud of our guys, to find a way to win when we got down. I thought we played really, really well early. We had control of the game and did some really good things and I think in a way some of those things went against us because stuff came easily. We really did a good job on them defensively.

“I thought the three at halftime was huge, gave them some momentum. We could have had a nine-point lead and control, but they made that shot and then got another basket on a back-cut and suddenly it’s a four-point lead. We probably didn’t handle that very well and we struggled a little bit in the second half to guard them.

"(Craig) Bradshaw was causing us problems. He made some really tough shots and got to the basket on us a few times. They did a good job defensively. They took away the paint. They trapped (Landry) Nnoko every time he got it and kept K.J. (McDaniels) away from the rim. They sagged off people and forced us to shoot threes. Fortunately, we made a bunch of them. Demarcus (Harrison) stepped up at the end and we had a lot of guys step up off the bench. We’re excited to go to New York.”

On stepping up defensively at the end of the game: “The last 14 possessions they scored 10 points, which is outstanding defense. That’s nothing against them. We locked in. I think sometimes when you fall behind it almost relaxes you as a player. I think they played better when they were behind. They relaxed and made some shots and drove harder and put us on our heels and put us behind, which I think in turn relaxed us and we went and made some plays.

"Our guys really grinded up at the end and got some big stops. We beat a very good team tonight, a team that plays the right way and plays with confidence. They had a plan for us and made us make some shots and we did and we did just enough defensively to get some stops to win it.”

On Clemson's fans: “The fans were great. This was big for a lot of reasons. Certainly the fans being there the last two games to send our guys off with a good taste in their mouths. We beat three good teams in the NIT so far. Georgia State and Belmont are mid-major teams with unbelievable skill level and toughness and very good coaching. Then Illinois is like another ACC backyard brawl, they make you find ways to score because you’re not going to get easy baskets. Our team’s showing some resiliency and certainly it’s helped to play at home, but we’ve done some very good things this week and a half to give us a chance to get to New York.”

Belmont coach Rick Byrd

“I thought it was a great basketball game. I am honestly happy for Brad, he’s one of the real good guys in this business. He’s a good friend that does things the right way and I admire the way his team plays. I told him that I wanted to host this game, so everyone was pulling for Illinois, but I couldn’t do it. I wanted both and it couldn’t happen. This was a great night for our program; 38 minutes of even basketball and then you just flip a coin who wins. They made the plays to win it and I’m not taking away from them, but that doesn’t mean they are better than us and doesn’t mean we would be better than them if we ended up winning at the end.

“They made some big threes, they went 10-21. I told our guys if they made shots like that then we probably wouldn’t be able to beat them, but we have to take away their drives and we have to take away their inside game and make them make threes. I’m so proud of our kids. Blake Jenkins has been on five conference championship teams and J.J. Mann has been on three. I think this team and this NIT run did a whole lot for our school and our basketball program going forward and I really applaud our guys for looking at it that way and by not hanging their head and not showing up. I’m lucky to coach that team.”

On outrebounding the Tigers: “Well, we’re bigger and stronger and jump higher than they do. (Laughter) When I looked at halftime and saw that we had 11 offensive rebounds – if we analyze those 18 for the game, I think they were hustle long rebounds. They weren’t our guys getting around them and them not boxing out. It was about effort on our part and it actually got us some kick-out threes in the first half. I did tell our guys before the game that when we appear outmatched on the board which is every time we play almost, we end up more than holding our own which we did.”

On Clemson’s late defense: “I don’t know how much it changed, but there’s no question that sometime there late they just upped their pressure. They made it tough to deliver passes. We tried to run a couple of misdirection throwback plays and Craig (Bradshaw) couldn’t make the passes because the defender was all up in him. I made a couple of bad calls. I really think I hurt our team late.

"I called an out of bounds play and usually it’s just a pass to Drew Windler where he might be able to shoot a six-footer, but he was going up against (K.J.) McDaniels, and why I think he could shoot over McDaniels was crazy. He ended up double dribbling the basketball and then we tried the backdoor play late when we were down and we got it a lot, it’s a hard play to stop. A couple of bad plays by the head coach; there’s no other way to put it.”

On how the late first half effort affected play early in the second half: “I think it gave us a boost. You can ask Brad, you’ve got no explanation why your team comes out of halftime a certain way. For all I know, that could have made them mad and they could have come out strong. Both teams wanted to win that game and both teams played really hard and I don’t think either one of us could possibly fault the effort of our kids in that game today. I hope they win it all. Thanks.”

Team Notes

• Clemson advanced to the semifinals of the NIT on Tuesday with a 73-68 win over Belmont. It is the third time the Tiger program has advanced to play in the semifinals in Madison Square Garden, joining the 1998-99 and 2006-07 teams.

• The Tigers face the winner of the quarterfinal game between California and SMU on Tuesday, April 1. It marks the latest calendar date Clemson will have played a game in its history.

• Tuesday’s win was Clemson’s 12th straight at home in the NIT, the second-longest streak in history. Only Michigan owns a longer streak with 16 in a row at home since 1980.

• The Tigers earned their 23rd win, the program’s highest total since the 2008-09 team also won 23 games.

• Clemson has improved its win total by 10 games over the 2012-13 season (13-18), matching the school record set when the 1938-39 team won 16 games one season after winning just six.

• The win was Clemson’s sixth in the month of March, surpassing the previous school record of five set by the 2006-07 team.

• Clemson matched its single-season record for home wins with its 16th victory in Littlejohn Coliseum.

• Brad Brownell improved to 3-0 against Belmont. He was previously 2-0 as the head coach at Wright State, his most recent stop prior to Clemson.

• The Tigers need one win to match the ACC record for wins following a losing season. Duke’s 1983-84 team and NC State’s 2011-12 both won 24 games, most in league history after a losing season the year before.

• Clemson won its eighth game decided by five points or less, the most since the 2006-07 team also won eight in that scenario.

• The Tigers improved to 11-1 on the season when scoring at least 70 points. Clemson scored 70 or more just six times in 2012-13.

• Clemson’s bench outscored Belmont 19-0, the biggest disparity in the Tigers’ favor since the VMI game on Dec. 30.

• Clemson’s 10 three-point goals matched a season-high, and matched the most by any Tiger team in 31 NIT games. The 2006-07 team made 10 in the championship game loss to West Virginia.

Player Notes

• K.J. McDaniels scored double figures, the 32nd time this season the Tiger junior has reached 10 or more points in a game.

• McDaniels scored 16 points and became just the sixth player in Clemson history to surpass 600 in a single season. He has 603 entering the semifinals.

• McDaniels blocked a pair of shots. He extended his streak to 17 consecutive games with at least one block. He needs just three to become the third different Tiger to block at least 100 in a season.

• McDaniels had four dunks and now has 56, third-most in school history for a single season. He needs six to match Harold Jamison’s 62 from the 1998-99 season.

• Damarcus Harrison scored 16 points, the second time in three NIT games he has had at least 16. He has reached double figures in eight of the past 11 games.

• Jordan Roper reached double figures for the fourth time in five games, and for the second straight game he achieved 10 points within the first 12 minutes.

• Landry Nnoko posted four blocks and now has an eight-game streak of his own with at least one blocked shot. He has 67 for the season.

• Ibrahim Djambo and Adonis Filer both made a three-pointer in the opening half. It was the first for both since the Miami game on March 4.

• Djambo scored Clemson’s third four-point play of the season in the first half at the 2:21 mark. It is the first time the Tigers have had three four-point plays in the same season.

• Djambo’s seven points matched his second-highest total of the 2013-14 season.

• Filer grabbed six rebounds, a season-high for the sophomore.

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