CLEMSON — The Clemson men’s basketball team has not looked back since starting ACC play 1-5. In fact, the Tigers have turned on the jets in winning four games in a row.
That streak included their first marquee win Saturday, a 59-51 victory over the No.11 Virginia Tech Hokies.
"It's been a great week for our team and we obviously capped it off with a good performance (against the Hokies),” head coach Brad Brownell said. "I really thought Shelton Mitchell was a difference maker, especially early shooting the ball. That really helped us. Defensively, again, our guys did a really good job. I thought our guys did a really good job. I thought we were a little bit tired and had a couple of guys that weren't feeling great and we gutted it out.
“They are hard to play against on both ends and our guys hung in there and battled today and I thought our first shot defense was good. Just really pleased with the way our team played."
The reason for the Tigers’ recent run of success has been a stifling defense.
In their last three games, the Tigers are holding opponents to an average of 43.3 points.
“I don’t think we have been poor on defense all year, but we have certainly elevated our play,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “There is heightened awareness. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a greater sense of urgency. I don’t know. Guys have just done a really good job.
“I think we have had some other games that we lost during the season that we defended reasonably well. But to beat good teams, you have to put it all together. You have to have good offense and good defense. There have been some games where we certainly weren’t able to do that and some of that is because of the quality of the competition that we play.”
Along with defense, the Tigers have also displayed a tremendous amount of resolve.
While many teams would have packed in their hopes of making the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season, Brownell’s crew continued to pick themselves up off the floor and go back to work — which is a testament to the kind of program and the kind of players that he has.
“I think it speaks to the way our program is. I think we have a good program,” Brownell said. “I think that we're just trying to have a good program and it's hard - -there are a lot of good teams out there in basketball. There are more better teams out there in basketball than in football. It's different. So it's hard to win. And we play so many games that come back at you so quickly that your resiliency is tested much quicker.
“I'm proud of our players. Our older guys have done a good job of not hanging their heads or feeling sorry for themselves when some things didn't go our way. There were some games we played really hard and didn't win and that can be frustrating … You either believe in each other, believe in your team, believe in your coaches and what you are trying to do, or you just give in. We have really good guys and the quality of character of our team is high.”
The Tigers return to the court Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN2) as they travel to Miami.