By Ken Cross
The Clemson Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the nation and that showed again on Saturday in a 74-69 overtime win over Louisville as the Tigers took their 10th consecutive win and they moved to 14-1.
For Clemson, it was the art of staying in the moment and competing for 45 minutes and allowing the defense to manifest itself. The last possession of regulation showed this as Marcquise Reed played Louisville point guard Quentin Snyder, man up and forced a bad shot by Snider and then the subsequent overtime.
“It’s been a process all year,” said Clemson coach Brad Brownell of his defense, “We have some guys that are good defenders, but we don’t have elite shot blockers or people with crazy length. We have guys that have been through the wars of the league and we have guys who have been in our system and how we do things or whether we make adjustments game to game or within a game, they understand what to do.”
Louisville’s turnovers in the early part of overtime were microcosms of the last possession fo regulation. Reed blitzed Snider off the dribble right away and picked up two of the Tigers’ 15 steals. They ended in a pair of free throws and a layup which gave Clemson a 59-55 lead with 3:12 remaining.
“He is playing really good basketball,” Brownell said of Reed, “He is a guy that can play both ends. We have worked really hard with him the last couple of years, defensively. He has really improved.
Reed came in from Robert Morris where he was primarily a scorer in averaging 15.1 points per game and shooting 49 percent from the floor for the Patriots as a freshman. He red-shirted last season and worked on his game.
Brownell and his staff worked tirelessly to get him indoctrinated as a defensive force at guard and it has obviously been a successful endeavor. While Reed is Clemson’s leading scorer at 15.3 ppg.,, he is also becoming a defensive stopper for a team that looks like it will contend for an ACC title.
“He really didn’t come to us with that mindset,” said Brownell, “He came to us as a scorer and played zone his first year at Robert Morris. He has really developed into a competitive guy and I think you saw some of that on the defensive end today.
Reed hit a couple of threes in the late stages of the second half that helped Clemson hold off Louisville. The Cardinals came at them hard late in the game and finished on an 8-3 run to force the extra session.
“We were getting good looks,” said Reed, who finished with a game-high 24 points in playing a paltry 44 minutes, “Myself, I missed a couple early. I didn’t get down on myself and kept shooting the ball.”
It was a day where the Tigers were outrebounded by nine and shot only 36.6 percent themselves. Clemson made key defensive plays in key moments to solidify a strong win over a competitive Louisville Cardinals squad.
“I think by reinforcing that this fall or in the summer, our older guys took that to heart,” noted Brownell, ” We have had some success so that I think has helped as well in terms of like, ‘hey what we are doing is working, so lets put in time in practice and preparation and that was evident today.'”