CLEMSON — With his team lacking shot creators and accurate shooters, Clemson coach Brad Brownell made a curious decision at the start of ACC play. Brownell decided to increase tempo, to add possessions to the game.
Brownell is considered a half-court, slow-the-pace style of coach, like Tony Bennett at No. 22 Virginia (19-5, 6-4 ACC) who visits Littlejohn Coliseum today at 7 p.m. But with his Clemson team struggling, Brownell elected to choose a creative, counter-intuitive measure to maximize two advantages Clemson (12-12, 4-6) does possess: an ACC-best turnover margin (plus-2.4 per game), and a solid senior guard in Andre Young.
On Saturday, that philosophy was made more effective as Clemson shot a season-best 58.2 percent from the field, ending a frustrating string of three straight losses by four or fewer points at Wake Forest. Clemson hopes the counter-intuitive philosophy helps the team improve its postseason resume with six ACC games to play.
"We've tried to play faster," Brownell said. "We don't have enough scoring to average 70 points a game like some teams in the league. We are not shooting a high percentage. The thing that's been good is our turnovers. We've been able to play reasonably fast and not have a lot of turnovers."
The decision to play faster is tied to returning Young to full-time point guard duties. Young is second in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9) and 11th in scoring (13.6 points per game).
"We experimented some with Rod (Hall) playing the point at times and moved Andre off the ball some," Brownell said. "What we found is Andre is better with the ball and it cost Rod minutes, but it's helped our team offensively. When the ball is in Young's hands more, he makes more decisions, has more speed and is hard to guard. It's probably something we should have experimented with (earlier), but we have five freshmen."
Young says he is comfortable playing point guard.
"It just leads to a couple easy points if I do a good job of really trying to make two (defenders) guard me," Young said. "We're just trying to get easy transition points."
Senior Tanner Smith said the change in philosophy has loosened up the team.
"I think he's letting us play a little more free," Smith said. "I think you can see when our offense is clicking and we are getting stops we can get some things going."