Clemson's Brad Brownell discusses his team's shocking victory over No. 2 seed Arizona

Following Clemson's shocking victory over No. 2 seed Arizona, head coach Brad Brownell spoke about his team's rugged mentality, Clemson's defense, and the officiating.

Mar 28, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Brad Brownell celebrates with forward
Mar 28, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Brad Brownell celebrates with forward / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night in Los Angeles, the Clemson Tigers' magical run through the NCAA Tournament continued with a 77-72 win over No. 2 seed Arizona. The Tigers will now face No. 4 seed Arizona on Saturday for the right to advance to the Final Four.

Following the game, head coach Brad Brownell met with the media to discuss his team's shocking win over the Wildcats.

"Obviously, huge win," he said. "Just really happy for, obviously, my players, my staff, and really all of Clemson Nation. This was a big-time game by our guys.

"We got off to a great start. Arizona, obviously, punched back a couple times, but these guys have hung in there and finished a game against a really good team that has had a really good season. We have a lot of respect for them.

"But today was our day. We made enough plays to win, and I'm just super happy that these guys are going to get a chance to continue to play and we get to spend more time together."

After the Tigers jumped out to an eight-point halftime lead, Arizona mounted a second-half comeback and even took a brief one-point lead. Brownell discussed what he told his team after the Wildcats stole the momentum.

"We talked about it at halftime," he said. "'Guys, they're going to make another run or two. And we've used the phrase 'we're built for this, we can handle this.' We have confidence in our team.

"We've won some big-time road games this year. We've played a very challenging schedule — again, my point that the ACC is much better than everybody maybe assumes is bearing fruit again. And I just think the league prepares us for these kinds of games."

"And I've got an older team. These guys have seen a lot, done a lot and experienced success. And so just really happy that they were able to withstand it, and we executed some things really well down the stretch."

Coming in as the underdog, Clemson had to have a fighter's mentality. Brownell discussed the mindset that has carried his team to the Elite Eight.

"I just think our guys have a lot of belief in each other," he said, "and I certainly have a lot of belief in my team. And we're playing good basketball right now. And anything can happen in these tournaments.

"You've got to have really good players. I have good players. When you have players you try to do the best job you can as a coach to put them in positions to be successful. And when these guys capitalize like they have been, good things are going to happen.

"So we have a lot of confidence in our team. We've been through a lot together, especially these three guys. These guys are all — Chase five years, Ian third year, and P.J. his fourth. We've been together for a long time. And so we know the ins and outs of each other and our personalities. I think that helps our team."

Holding an Arizona team that averaged 88 points on the season to just 72 in this game was an indication of how well Clemson is playing defense. Brownell talked about how his team has been able to ramp up its play on that end of the floor in March.

"It's been a process," he said. "I've talked about it with our team and media that follows us closely that I have a lot of guys that are offensive players. We probably have more of an offensive mentality and identity than some of my other teams.

"So challenging these guys and getting them to understand how important the defensive end is has been critical. And certainly we've had some ups and downs with that. We've had some very good defensive performances this year and we've had a couple of really bad ones."

"We were fortunate tonight. I mean, I do think it's important to mention, Arizona had some good shots and missed them. And that's part of March Madness. It's part of the pressure of making shots this time of year in the tournament. But that's an unbelievable team that just had a tough shooting night. Obviously, we were able to capitalize on some of that."

Though many believed that the ACC was not up to its usual standards this season, the conference was well-represented in the Sweet 16 with four teams reaching the second weekend of the tournament. Brownell talked about how the strength of the conference helped prepare his team for this run.

"I've said this," he said. "I've been in the league 14 years. So I've seen a lot. And I've coached against a bunch of hall of fame coaches and coached in the league when we had three No. 1 seeds. I just knew that this year's league was much better than it was getting credit for.

"And we easily had seven or eight teams that were NCAA Tournament-worthy in terms of talent, and a couple teams had some injuries early. We had a lot of young teams in our league that November and December were figuring themselves out. By the time they got to the conference they were beating some of the better teams in the league, us included.

"Yes, I just felt like our league was really good, and I knew that the battles of those two months were going to help us. We started playing better in February again after a bad January. And I do think what we've gone through from the beginning of the season to now has hardened our team a little bit and certainly prepared us for this time of year."

Finally, he was asked about the officiating on a night when his team was awarded nine fewer free throws than the Wildcats. Naturally, in victory, Brownell had few complaints.

"No. It was fantastic," he said. (Laughter) "We obviously won the game. No, the officiating was fine. I mean, it is what it is. These are hard games to call. There's so much physicality and the players are so athletic and it's just hard to manage it all. It really is. It had no bearing on anything tonight.

"Both teams got into the bonus and both teams got players in foul trouble. At the end of the day it's about players making more plays than another team."