Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell
"That was obviously a terrific basketball game. The ebbs and flows of the game were really unique. I have a lot of respect for Belmont, their players and coach. Coach (Rick) Byrd and I have known each other for many years, back before our games against each other were very important. I just have a lot of respect for the way his kids play the game. They competed as hard as anybody we played this year, they were very scrappy.
"I'm proud of our guys, to find a way to win when we got down. I thought we played really, really well early. We had control of the game and did some really good things and I think in a way some of those things went against us because stuff came easily. We really did a good job on them defensively.
"I thought the three at halftime was huge, gave them some momentum. We could have had a nine-point lead and control, but they made that shot and then got another basket on a back-cut and suddenly it's a four-point lead. We probably didn't handle that very well and we struggled a little bit in the second half to guard them. (Craig) Bradshaw was causing us problems. He made some really tough shots and got to the basket on us a few times. They did a good job defensively. They took away the paint. They trapped (Landry) Nnoko every time he got it and kept K.J. (McDaniels) away from the rim. They sagged off people and forced us to shoot threes. Fortunately, we made a bunch of them. Demarcus (Harrison) stepped up at the end and we had a lot of guys step up off the bench. We're excited to go to New York."
stepping up defensively at the end of the game:
"The last 14 possessions they scored 10 points, which is outstanding defense. That's nothing against them. We locked in. I think sometimes when you fall behind it almost relaxes you as a player. I think they played better when they were behind. They relaxed and made some shots and drove harder and put us on our heels and put us behind, which I think in turn relaxed us and we went and made some plays. Our guys really grinded up at the end and got some big stops. We beat a very good team tonight, a team that plays the right way and plays with confidence. They had a plan for us and made us make some shots and we did and we did just enough defensively to get some stops to win it."
the fans Tuesday:
"The fans were great. This was big for a lot of reasons. Certainly the fans being there the last two games to send our guys off with a good taste in their mouths. We beat three good teams in the NIT so far. Georgia State and Belmont are mid-major teams with unbelievable skill level and toughness and very good coaching. Then Illinois is like another ACC backyard brawl, they make you find ways to score because you're not going to get easy baskets. Our team's showing some resiliency and certainly it's helped to play at home, but we've done some very good things this week and a half to give us a chance to get to New York."
Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd
"I thought it was a great basketball game. I am honestly happy for Brad, he's one of the real good guys in this business. He's a good friend that does things the right way and I admire his team plays. I told him that I wanted to host this game, so everyone was pulling for Illinois, but I couldn't do it. I wanted both and it couldn't happen. This was a great night for our program; 38 minutes of even basketball and then you just flip a coin who wins. They made the plays to win it and I'm not taking away from them, but that doesn't mean they are better than us and doesn't mean we would be better than them if we ended up winning at the end.
"They made some big threes, they went 10-21. I told our guys if they made shots like that then we probably wouldn't be able to beat them, but we have to take away their drives and we have to take away their inside game and make them make threes. I'm so proud of our kids. Blake Jenkins has been on five conference championship teams and J.J. Mann has been on three. I think this team and this NIT run did a whole lot for our school and our basketball program going forward and I really applaud our guys for looking at it that way and by not hanging their head and not showing up. I'm lucky to coach that team."
outrebounding the Tigers:
"Well, we're bigger and stronger and jump higher than they do. (Laughter) When I looked at halftime and saw that we had 11 offensive rebounds - if we analyze those 18 for the game, I think they were hustle long rebounds. They weren't our guys getting around them and them not boxing out. It was about effort on our part and it actually got us some kick-out threes in the first half. I did tell our guys before the game that when we appear outmatched on the board which is every time we play almost, we end up more than holding our own which we did."
Clemson's late defense:
"I don't know how much it changed, but there's' no question that sometime there late they just upped their pressure. They made it tough to deliver passes. We tried to run a couple of misdirection throwback plays and Craig (Bradshaw) couldn't make the passes because the defender was all up in him. I made a couple of bad calls. I really think I hurt our team late. I called an out of bounds play and usually it's just a pass to Drew Windler where he might be able to shoot a six-footer, but he was going up against (K.J.) McDaniels, and why I think he could shoot over McDaniels was crazy. He ended up double dribbling the basketball and then we tried the backdoor play late when we were down and we got it a lot, it's a hard play to stop. A couple of bad plays by the head coach; there's no other way to put it."
how the late first half effort affected play early in the second half:
"I think it gave us a boost. You can ask Brad, you've got no explanation why your team comes out of halftime a certain way. For all I know, that could have made them mad and they could have come out strong. Both teams wanted to win that game and both teams played really hard and I don't think either one of us could possibly fault the effort of our kids in that game today. I hope they win it all. Thanks."