Postgame: Clemson coach Brad Brownell, players on win over N.C. State
COACH BROWNELL: But I thought we were really locked in. Did a great job on Dennis Smith. Offensively we played pretty well for most stretches. Didn’t shoot it as well in the second half. We had a bunch of layups and chips that our bigs missed.
Our attention to detail was better than it’s been. So very pleased to get this first win.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll ask questions for Coach Brownell.
Q. Coach, specifically Dennis Smith, you shut him down pretty much the whole game, kept him about 11 points below his average. What was the key to that?
COACH BROWNELL: Some of it was transition. I thought we kept him out of transition a good bit. He’s dynamic in the open floor. Whether it was just making shots or good shots around the rim so we didn’t have long misses that led to run-outs and open-court play for him, I just think he’s a terrific player. When he gets a full head of steam, you can’t guard him with one player.
I think keeping him in the halfcourt, executing offensively with shot selection, not to take bad shots, have live-ball turnovers, kept that situation the way we wanted it.
Q. Keeping the ball away from him, was that Holmes that was doing that?
COACH BROWNELL: Yeah, we had a couple different guys guarding him. Avry started, and then Avry tweaked his ankle. Marcquise got some minutes there. I thought both those guys did a really good job of making it a little bit difficult when he got rid of the ball to not just be able to make easy catches.
Then our big guys did a good job in ball-screen defense.
Q. Brad, seemed like you guys have had so many nail-biters at the end. Did it feel strange the last couple minutes not having it down to one possession?
COACH BROWNELL: Yeah, it did. You know, our team has showed unbelievable amounts of character this year. I don’t know that people speak to that enough. This day and age, we’re very critical of young people in a lot of circumstances. If you look at our schedule, the way we’ve played every team in this league almost, we’ve had a couple bad outings, a bad half at Louisville and a bad game at Florida State, but every other game we’ve been in the game with a chance to win with a minute or less to go.
It’s not easy to come back to practice every week when you’re losing one-point games, two-point games, one-point games in a variety of ways. Some of the reason for that is the character of the guys I coach. I have great guys on my team. They represent us phenomenally both on and off the court. They just won’t give in.
So, yes, it’s nice to win a game like this. But I’ve been extremely proud of this team on nights when we lost. When you coach in this league, you can play extremely well and lose because the teams are so good.
It’s not all about the outcome every night. We certainly would have liked to have won some more games. There have been a lot of nights when I’ve been very proud of our team when we didn’t win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. If you could talk a little bit about the ease of the second half, how well you were playing offensively. A couple thoughts on Duke tomorrow. Close game with them last time.
JARON BLOSSOMGAME: We had a couple guys play well early in the first half. A lot of guys gained confidence from that. Avry hit a big shot right before the half. Guys were feeling good about our game, the plan that Coach put in for us. The second half it carried over offensively.
JARON BLOSSOMGAME: Another opportunity. We focused on beating NC State. We got that out of the way. We’ll regroup now and focus on Duke. We played them tough up there in Cameron, lost by two. I’m definitely excited for round two.
Q. What was the key, if anything, to slowing down Smith? Looked like he was having a hard time finding his rhythm.
COACH BROWNELL: Again, I think keeping him in the halfcourt, not allowing him to be in the open court as much as possible. Some of that, again, it’s floor balance, it’s good offensive execution to take quality shots so that you’re not having turnovers, you’re not having long rebounds off bad shots that bounce out, now he’s grabbing it, getting a long outlet, playing in the open floor.
I thought our guys did a really good job of being in gaps, making him see multiple jerseys, as much as possible, in the halfcourt. Our big guys did a good job in ball-screen coverage.
Q. You two looked like you were trading off baskets. You both finished with 22. New stadium. Did you feel comfortable out there?
SHELTON MITCHELL: Yeah, I think we felt comfortable. I think it was more so getting our shots. Coach always talks about spacing on the floor, making sure we’re taking our shots. I think today we took our shots and they went in.
Q. Jaron, yesterday you were comparing the NC State game, saying you needed to have more attention to detail. That seems to have been the key to the game today. Is that fair?
JARON BLOSSOMGAME: Yeah, we played really, really well defensively. In the first game we gave up some things we shouldn’t have given up. I felt like guys for the most part were locked in today. Defensively we took care of business.
Q. Shelton, talk about Duke, what you took out of that game last time, what you think you need to do differently this time.
SHELTON MITCHELL: I think just at Duke, we missed a couple of opportunities to get the lead, winning the game. They’re a great team. They space the floor. They have a lot of weapons. Now we can focus on them and try to get a win tomorrow.
Q. Coach Brownell, could you talk about what kind of conversation did you have leading into the tournament about the NCAAs, what you might have to do or not have to do?
COACH BROWNELL: Yeah, we didn’t get into too many specifics. In some ways every team gets an opportunity to make the tournament because if you win your tournament, you’re going to go, whether you’re a mid-major, low major, high major. You get to play until somebody beats you.
I reminded our guys of that this week. We talked about the quality of play that we’ve had throughout the year, some resulting in wins, some not. We actually won a couple league games when we probably didn’t play as well when we lost. We know if we play well, focused, we can be a difficult team to beat.
You can’t talk about advancing in the tournament until you actually play a game and win. Our full focus was on NC State. I thought we had great preparation, a quick turnaround from Boston College, an emotional day with our Senior Day with our players. Extremely proud of how they performed today.
We’ll give our full attention to Duke as soon as we get back to the hotel.
Q. Jaron, as a senior, you’ve been through this a while now, does this feel or do you think about this any differently, this being your last go-around?
JARON BLOSSOMGAME: Not really. Haven’t paid much attention to it. Really trying to focus on each game. We have a really good team. Lost a few close games this year.
Like Coach said, we played well in some of our losses. We believed in each other. We have a good team. Coach always prepares us to the fullest. We always have a plan in place. I’m definitely excited for tomorrow.
Q. Coach, can you tell us anything about Avry? I know he came back from the locker room, but you didn’t put him back in.
COACH BROWNELL: We’re optimistic he’ll be able to play. Trainer said you could put him in and see how he goes. I told him a couple minutes into when he came back, I just went down to him and say, Hey, I’m going to try not to play you. If we can keep the lead at double figures, I’m not going to put you back in the game. I’d rather you just rest it. Let’s get more treatment, try to get you as ready as we can for tomorrow.
He’ll certainly give it a go. We’ll see how he is. I’m hopeful that he’ll be able to play and really help us because he’s played really well here down the stretch. As a senior I know he’s highly motivated and wants to be out there.
I’m sure he’ll give it a go. We’ll just have to see how it looks tomorrow.
Q. Brad, can you speak a little bit to what Jaron has taken out of this year, deciding not to leave last year?
COACH BROWNELL: I know, I can say for me, I can’t speak for Jaron. Certainly one of the things that I’m unbelievably proud of with Jaron is Jaron had his degree and still came back. I think that speaks a lot to our university and our community.
Jaron, in my opinion, just talking to him, I think he just loved his Clemson experience. As much as he was going to improve in certain things, in basketball, dribbling, passing, defending perimeter players, all those things, I think he’s a guy that wanted to enjoy his Clemson experience one more time.
Again, we have an unbelievable Clemson family, from our president to athletic director and all the people that support us and our student body. It’s just a unique school. Until you actually go and spend time there, it’s hard to explain. It just kind of grabs you.
I think here is a guy that didn’t grow up a Clemson fan. But I think he just really loved his experience and didn’t want to leave.
Q. Jaron, can I ask you similar, what went into your decision? How did it jibe with what Brad was saying there?
JARON BLOSSOMGAME: There were a few factors that went into my decision. A lot of what Coach said is true. I really do have a genuine love for Clemson. It’s a very special place. If you’re not there, you really don’t understand what Clemson family really means.
To be there five years, I truly understand what it means. There’s a few things I wanted to come back and work on and improve. I wanted one more year. I didn’t want to give up my last year of college, my last experience at Clemson. The NBA will be there next year after the season.
Wanted to come back to school, play with my guys one last time.
Q. For both players, this is the first time this tournament has ever been in this part of the world. What was the vibe like? What is it like playing here?
JARON BLOSSOMGAME: Definitely a good feeling. It’s my second time coming to New York. It’s a great venue to come play basketball at. It’s a very good basketball city. Guys were excited about it.
SHELTON MITCHELL: I’ll be honest. I was kind of disappointed, to be honest with you (smiling). I grew up in North Carolina. I’m just used to always seeing the ACC tournament in Greensboro. This is my first time being in New York, so it’s pretty cool. I’m honest (smiling).
COACH BROWNELL: Oh, we didn’t make any fans there (laughter). He’s young, he’s young.
SHELTON MITCHELL: I still love it here.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.