Defensive-minded Tigers to take on high-scoring Pack Sunday

by - Senior Writer -

The recent chilly temperatures mirror the cold-shooting affecting ACC teams around the league early in the new year, and Clemson’s defense has been among the league’s best.

In their last outing – earlier this week against Wake Forest – head coach Brad BrownellBrad Brownell
Head Coach
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’s Tigers held the Demon Deacons to just 44 points in a 60-44 win. I was sitting by Clemson Sports Information Director Tim Bourret on press row following the contest as he scanned Clemson’s media guide, and he came up with an interesting fact – the win over Wake and the 44 point threshold marked the first time in Clemson history that the Tigers have held consecutive ACC opponents to 45 points or less.

The Tigers currently rank second in the ACC in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 55.4 points per game, have held teams to exactly 44 points four times and held six teams under 50 points.

Clemson – not exactly the tallest team in the league – also leads the ACC in blocked shots per game at 5.3 blocks per contest. Sophomore K.J. McDanielsK.J. McDaniels
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#32 6-6, 200
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is second in the league [behind Georgia Tech’s Daniel Miller] with 2.3 blocks per game.

However, scoring is down across the league this season, and seven of the league’s 12 teams are averaging 62 points or less, putting points at a premium and giving any team that knows how to play solid defense a legitimate shot in every game.

The Tigers will rely on their defense Sunday night when they travel to Raleigh to take on No. 14 N.C. State, a team that doesn’t have any problem scoring – the Wolfpack are second in the ACC at 79.6 points per game. N.C. State also features four starters that average 12 or more points per game.

“They are a great offensive team with a lot of firepower,” Brownell said Friday. “They can really rebound it. We are going to have to score some points and find a way to make some baskets to win this game. You aren’t going to hold N.C. State to the low numbers we have held some other teams to.”

However, the Wolfpack are an aberration when it comes to scoring, and Brownell listed several contributing factors.

“I think there are more teams that struggle to score than people think,” Brownell said. “I think some of it is you have a lot of younger players playing now, not having as many third and fourth year guys. Some guys going into the NBA is one factor. There are not as many guys that are great shooters. I also think defenses are more sophisticated. It becomes more difficult to run basic things and get easy shots.”

Freshman guard Jordan RoperJordan Roper
Fr. Guard
#20 5-11, 165
Columbia, SC

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admitted that the Tigers may not be the most exciting team to watch, but they do what they have to do against more talented opponents.

“It’s definitely a challenge to get into all the grind games we play,” Roper said. “It’s not as exciting for the fans, but it’s exciting to get in those games and come away with a win. You just have to buy into the system and trust your teammates. It’s been a huge adjustment for me to learn to play help defense.”

Brownell said he has always been a defense-first guy.

“It stems from the fact of when I was an assistant at UNC Wilmington – maybe after my second year or something like that – I had every game prep and did every game scout for five straight years,” he said. “When you are the guy responsible for the scout, you are constantly thinking of ways you can stop teams. I guess in some ways it is a little bit like a defensive coordinator. That probably got me going that way a little bit more and that has carried over into being a head coach.”

The Tigers and Wolfpack will tip it off at 6:02 p.m. Sunday evening, and the game will be televised by ESPNU.

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