QUOTABLE: Brad Brownell, Gabe DeVoe after loss to UVA
A transcript of the press conference after Clemson's loss to Virginia Friday in the ACC Tournament.
BRAD BROWNELL: Well, congratulations to Virginia. I thought they did the things they needed to do to win. Extremely proud of our guys. I thought we competed at a really high level today. I thought defensively we really matched them in terms of being able to make things difficult. Credit some of their under-the-radar guys like Jack Salt, who made some big plays late in some shot clocks, a couple tip-ins, short shots, and then obviously the stretch in the first half where we had trouble scoring was really the difference. Eli got the second foul and went to the bench and we didn't play as well with him not in there today.
Great basketball game, extremely competitive, hard-fought by both teams.
Q. Brad, was it just the fact that Eli wasn't in, or was there something that you saw in that nine and a half-minute stretch that you either didn't like or something that you weren't seeing?
BRAD BROWNELL: Yeah, I think it was a combination. I think Eli not being in was a major factor because we have to be able to do some other things to throw the ball to the block because of the way they play. You know, they really bottled up a lot of our ball screen stuff. They're just so big, long, athletic, and there's a lot of them, so they keep rotating guys. A lot of credit goes to them for how hard they play and how well they play, but we certainly needed to do a few things a little bit better with spacing and ball movement. But that stretch where we didn't have Eli certainly made a difference.
Q. It seems like in every postgame press conference involving Virginia, a coach is asked a question about some long stretch in which the team didn't score. What makes it so difficult, especially late in halves, to score on Virginia?
BRAD BROWNELL: They have good players. They have a very good system. Extremely well-coached. They're extremely big, long and athletic. I don't think people realize -- like they're bigger than we are at almost every position. Every position you look at their guys and look at our guys, a couple inches difference, five to ten pounds, strength. And that's true of a lot of teams that they play against. Not all but a lot.
You combine all those factors, they're going to be difficult to play against. It's Tony's hallmark. It's what they do, and obviously if you don't do that, you don't play. You know, certainly a lot of credit for the way they do things.
Q. Gabe, for you, what was it like playing out there on the perimeter trying to get in the post against that defense? What makes them different?
Gabe DeVoe: They just limit a lot of the -- they just make you take tough shots, limit the easy ones. They do a good job on ball screens, and they're always in good positions. Just make you make tough shots. I had a couple good looks, and they weren't able to go in today.
Q. Gabe, for all the talk about the Virginia defense, on the glass, do you find it hard to rebound against Virginia for any particular reason? You talked about the athleticism, but do they do something style-wise that makes it hard, especially on the defensive glad, their offensive?
GABE DEVOE: Yeah, I think their big guys do a great job being active. They tip out a lot of offensive rebounds. I think that's one of their pet things. So just keeping a body on them because they're great at tipping them out.
BRAD BROWNELL: Philosophically I think because of their screening action, your post players are involved in guarding the screens, and so sometimes you're guarding a screen shot by Kyle Guy, and the post player is helping to contest the shot. Obviously you can't contest the shot and block out your man at the same time, so now guards are rotating out to block out big guys. That's a big part of why they rebound, I think.
Q. Coach, when you faced them in the regular season, I know you guys were getting used to life without Grantham in the lineup. Now looking at this game, how do you feel like you guys have changed and matured and grown, and also how do you feel like this Virginia team has improved headed to the postseason?
BRAD BROWNELL: Our team has changed a lot because of this guy next to me. He's been tremendous the last six weeks of the season. Not only elevated his play to just about all-conference level, but also just leadership, confidence, swagger, the way he's gotten our other guys to believe and rally. It's hard. It's been hard. He's got his buddy, the guy he came in with, we're rolling. I don't know, 17-2, 16-3, whatever we were, playing great, and you lose your guy, your running mate, that's hard on you personally, and for you to rally like that for your team and to also elevate your game just speaks to the quality of person and player that he is. I mean, he's really had a lot on his shoulders. We don't have a lot of other seniors. We have a graduate transfer who hasn't been in our program a long time, and we have some juniors, but there's been a lot on Gabe, and Gabe has done an unbelievable job. Because of that, I think he's helped will our team -- I've tried to help will our team that we can be good, and we have been pretty good here the last six weeks. But it's a lot because of Gabe.
Just because of Virginia, I just think that they do what they do, and they just keep doing it better, and they don't ever back off. They play like this every day. You go 17-1 it's because you don't have many bad days, effort and execution. You might have a couple days where you don't shoot it well, but for 40 minutes you fight and they wear people down, and their guys like Hunter have gotten better, Diakite has gotten better. That's how I view them as being a little different.
Q. You had been asked earlier about why they're difficult to play against. Is there anything -- when they have the kind of stretch that they had end of the first half when they kind of locked you guys down, was there anything you could do schematically to free you guys up for shot or is it something your guys have to fight through?
BRAD BROWNELL: Yeah, I'm sure schematically I could do a better job in a couple areas to create some things for our guys. I do think you need some inside presence, and we really don't have that as much without Eli, so I do think that was a factor. But I'm sure in terms of just screening and all that, I don't know that -- they just guard a lot of things really well. I think you have to make some individual plays. You've got to play in space a little bit better. I don't think we -- we didn't do exactly what we probably wanted. I would have liked to have had another day or two to really kind of work on it a little bit more, but again, a lot of credit just goes to Virginia and how they just guard you. They just make it really hard. By the way, our defense wasn't too bad either tonight, just FYI. We're not too bad defensively. I hope Tony said something nice about our defense. Good, okay.
Q. Brad, as far as Elijah Thomas goes, how much was that second half surge by design, getting him kind of involved in that second half, and Gabe, what did you learn about your team's toughness and what can prepare you for next week?
BRAD BROWNELL: Yeah, obviously we were trying to get the ball to Eli in the second half, you know, just to see how they were going to react, if they were going to double. We had one bad play where they got us on a trap and thought Eli was going to be able to get it out and we were going to get an open three on the other side, he just didn't make a good pass. But beyond that, he was great in the second half. I mean, he was the guy that got us going, and then it kind of loosened a few things up for these guys. It just gave us a little bit of confidence knowing that he could make a couple buckets. We obviously played reasonably well in the second half offensively. We had 35 points. I know we didn't shoot a great percentage, but we got to the free-throw line because we were playing inside out.
Q. It's been a while since Clemson was in the NCAA Tournament, so this is for both Gabe and Coach. How excited are you guys for Sunday, and how confident are you guys going into next week?
GABE DEVOE: I mean, I'm super excited. This is my first time having this opportunity to go to the tournament, and it's huge for me. The locker room, the guys are really excited, and I think we're going to have a lot of confidence going forward into the tournament, as well.
BRAD BROWNELL: Yeah, we're obviously extremely excited about this opportunity. We've worked really hard, not just this season but as a program to put ourselves in a better position to be able to do it more often. It's hard in this league. You talk to a lot of us that aren't at some of the blue blood schools, and it's a battle every time to do this, so we certainly feel thankful and blessed that it's going to happen. But we know how hard we've worked this year and really the last couple years to kind of make this a reality. I'm as happy as I can be for guys like Gabe. I'm disappointed for Donte because it was something that we kind of set out to do this year. It was kind of our mission. And I do feel confident with our team. I think we're playing pretty good basketball. I thought we got better this weekend.
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