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Clemson Basketball

Brad Brownell talks NCAA Tournament, Matchup with Pitino's Lobos

March 22, 2024

When the Clemson basketball team was last seen in action, they suffered a surprising 76-55 defeat to Boston College in the second round of the ACC Tournament. The Tigers' inability to contain the Eagles backcourt duo of Claudell Harris and Jaden Zackery, who scored 27 and 22 points, respectively, led to the lopsided score. The Eagles also controlled the backboards by snatching 43 total rebounds to 27 with 13 coming on the offensive end. 

After such a disappointing loss, Clemson (21-11) will face New Mexico (26-9) and coach Richard Pitino on Friday (3:10 p.m., truTV) at the FedExForum (Memphis, TN) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The sixth-seed Tigers are actually the underdogs to the 11th-seed Lobos and will have to limit the guard trio of Jaelen House (16.1ppg, 1.9 spg), Jamal Mashburn Jr. (14.1), and Donovan Dent (14.3, 5.6 apg) and keep power forward J.T. Toppin (9.0 rpg) off the glass to avoid an early departure from the West Regional. 

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell sat down with the media on Thursday to discuss the upcoming matchup with the streaking -- winners of four consecutive games -- Mountain West Conference champions. 

On combating New Mexico's offensive style of play, which is similar to an Alabama team that the Tigers beat 85-77 in Tuscaloosa, AL, on Nov. 28, 2023:

"Obviously, transition and defensive rebounding are important much like when you play North Carolina. They're an outstanding rebounding team as well. They have great speed. Their guard play is outstanding, and that's not to take anything away from their post players. The more that I've watched them, the more impressed I've been. They're aggressive defensively in certain ways, and they'll even gamble a little bit -- go for steals, and they try to block a lot of shots. They get their hands on balls. They're very active."

On playing at the FedExForum, where they lost 77-79 to the Memphis Tigers on Dec. 16, 2023:

"We're all kind of standing there as coaches and [thinking] are we going to be in the 7/10 [seed] game here or we're going to be in the 6/11 game there? I think we all kind of figured those were the two most likely scenarios. And the longer it went, you obviously get a little more anxious. But then, we see that Memphis is open. We'd been there. We've played in the arena and although the game didn't end the way we wanted it to. It was a heck of a game. Our guys played pretty well. 

"And so we were excited. Also, we know that a lot of our fans are going to be able to come. It's close enough that they can come, and with it being on Friday, it makes it even easier for folks to get off work. So happy to be in Memphis."

On what he's seen in practice from the team since the loss to Boston College on March 13:

"You know. I don't know if we've played as poorly as it's been made out by some of the media. I realize we've lost three out of four, and we did play very poorly against Boston College, and I don't want to take anything away from Boston College.

"[We] got home and had to face it. I was very direct with our players that it was a missed opportunity. I was really disappointed with it. I think sometimes, this time of year, there are more distractions than ever, and I just challenged our guys to try to get back to the mindset that we had in November and December. So, I think we're ready. I hope we're re-centered. But this is about players making plays, and we're gonna find out where our guys are here come game time."

On if he feels the fans appreciate the three NCAA tournaments and Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last seven years and how does he deal with people who don't:

"I don't worry about it. I hope they do. More importantly, it's about my administration and the folks that I work for, and my players' understanding that we're doing the best we can to put them in position to be successful and show folks that this is a winning program. You know, we're trying to raise the ceiling certainly. I know we've raised the floor considerably since I got here. 

"But I don't get too distracted with all that. I've got enough to worry about day to day just coaching my team and planning for the future."

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Brad Brownell talks NCAA Tournament, Matchup with Pitino's Lobos

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