Purnell's Thursday press conference

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Listen to Clemson coach Oliver Purnell meet with media on Thursday afternoon at the HSBC Arena, the site of Friday's NCAA Tournament first round game against Missouri.


Opening Statement

Purnell: We're extremely pleased to be representing Clemson here in the first round of the NCAA tournament. As I think about think back on the year, the thing that stands out to me is how tough it is to get here from the ACC. We've got a great league. We beat up on each other coming down the stretch of the season. And you've just got to kind of hang in there and obviously you've got to win. But you've got to hang in there and do a good job. I thought our non conference schedule was also very tough, starting way back with the tournament out in California, with a number of teams that are now in the NCAA tournament. And then getting into the early ACC season schedule, I thought our guys were resilient. We went through some difficult times, went through some challenging games. But our guys really do enjoy and get up for big games. And for the most part, they distinguish themselves very well in those big games. We've got one coming now. Doesn't get much bigger than this from the standpoint that you're in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
If you want to compete for the national championship, you have to find a way to get through this game. Our guys were disappointed the last couple of years when we went out in the first round. I'm hoping that will be motivation for us, as we prepare for this game. And as we play this game, that our guys want to stay here for a while and move on and stay in the tournament for as long as we possibly can. And I think the obvious thing is to win that first game and see what happens.

You obviously like to play at a fast pace. But could you just talk about the luxury of having a guy like Booker in the paint when the game does slow down into a half court situation? And how important is it going to be for him to get multiple touches in this ballgame for you?

Purnell: Well, Trevor is one of the best players in the country. It is a luxury to have first team All ACC player, one of the best in the country. A guy that can go inside and out. Offensively we like for him to get touches in the lane. We like to run our offense through him, inside out. And it creates a situation where teams have to choose whether to double or triple team him in some cases. It presents our other players with opportunities to score. And if they don't, he's pretty good from a scoring standpoint. So it is a luxury to have him. If you are leading coming down the stretch, and the team is in a chase mode, at the end of the shot clock, you want the ball in his hands. If you are behind in a game when the clock is winding down the last six, seven minutes of the ballgame, you want to score when the clock is stopped. Obviously, he's a guy that can get you a bucket and get fouled. So it is a luxury to have him. He's had a great career for us. Not only scoring, but defensively, passing the basketball and doing so many other things, not to mention he's won more games than any player in Clemson history. He's probably the best all around player that's ever played in Clemson. So it has been nice to coach him.

You talked about how good your league is. Listen to some of the experts, you think you guys were the SWAC or something. Because Carolina is down, that's overstating the idea that this league is down has been overstated?

Purnell: Yes, I do. By the way, if you talk to most coaches in our league, we think Carolina will be right back next year. Yeah, I think that's the case. That's been the story line so many times this year, whether it be the print media, talk radio or TV. That's a popular story. So when a story gets repeated over and over, it can sway the perception of something. And I think it does sway the perception of our league. Certainly the league numbers wise is right in the area it's always been. In the top three, in the RPI and all of that stuff. If you want to use that.

So Carolina is down this year. But we've got some excellent teams. They won the national championship last year. There are a lot of people that feel like Duke will be in the Final Four this year. So we still have that "premiere team." But the other teams in this league, trust me, are awfully good.

I think any of them can beat any other team in the country on a given night.

Oliver, will we see more Andre Young, Demontez in the back court against this Missouri pressure or not really?

Purnell: Yeah, maybe. Maybe. I like that we talked all year long, I like that combination. The concern you would have is the concern that you always have, is from a stamina standpoint and having both those guys kind of tuckered out particularly in this kind of game. But it's a one and done situation. If you don't win. So I'm not going to be too worried about stamina and that kind of thing. If those two those two guys obviously make us a better ball handling team. Andre and Demontez are two of our better scorers, so particularly if we're struggling scoring, you'll probably see them more together.

Coach, both teams play very similar styles. The press, the high tempo offense, how do you see this thing matching up against Missouri?

Purnell: I think you stated it very well. I think there are a couple of subtle differences. They probably play a little more zone than we do. They like zoning out of bounds underneath, anytime the ball is out of bounds underneath they like the zone. So that puts them in the zone for a few possessions right there. They can choose to go to that some. We're more of a post oriented offense. A low post oriented offensive team and they're more perimeter oriented. I think those are two subtle differences. But from a mentality standpoint, we like pressure defense. We like to push the ball on offense and so do they.

Coach, in terms of the selection committee, do you think that it's getting to the point where they've become just sort of infatuated with statistics, almost to the point of ignoring the old eye test, Mississippi State being the example this year that clearly seems to be better than, you know, maybe a dozen or more teams?

Purnell: I personally don't think so. I think the committee does a good job. I think they use they use a number of different criteria to make a decision. I think they line them all out there and then there are some obvious teams that, you know, go on the board right away. I think we are one of those. And then they get down to a certain number of teams. And I think they do a comparison contrast. I think they look one of the messages I think that have been sent for a long time is if you're close, they're going to look at what you can control in your schedule. I know we pay a lot of attention to looking at our non conference schedule feeling like we're in the ACC, so it's it's a high likelihood that we could be closer on the bubble. And if you're in that situation, you want to make sure that you have every advantage. We've gone on the road to certain places that I would rather not go, but we've gone on the road with an eye towards the RPI and the eye towards at the end of the year, how many road games have you won? That question I think comes up in that room. And you want the answer to be you want that answer to be a positive. So I think they look at a number of different things. And I think they do by and large, I think they do a pretty good job.

How much of an advantage is the fact that this will be an up tempo game considering some of the struggles you guys have had in kind of slow down half court games like last week at NC State?

Purnell: I hope it is. I think you are talking about one of the best, if not the best pressure team in the country, Missouri. And so it's hard to look at that as an advantage. The advantage is that maybe we can duplicate in practice more so than most teams the kind of pressure and the kind of pace that we'll see. Because we like the up tempo. We practice it every day. We press each other every day. We run on each other every day. So we didn't have to spend a lot of time figuring out how we're going to simulate some of the things that they do. But they do it better than anybody, and so that means you're going to have to be effective in what you've done in practice.

Mike Anderson said that the people who say that teams that press don't like to be pressed probably never played basketball. Do you agree with that with him, I mean?

Purnell: I don't know about whether or not they've ever played basketball. But I've never felt that way. I think that sometimes when you're being pressed, it can generate offense for you, as opposed to calling a play and figuring this out and that. And if you're effective and attacking the pressure, it can generate offense for you. So we've actually liked teams pressing us at a certain point, particularly when we're leading in the second half.

Apologize if this has come up already. The team that you're going to be facing has with the injuries that have occurred, they're a little different than what you've seen on tape the last course of the season, and possibly you'll see people that even Missouri fans haven't even seen play whole lot this year. How do you prepare for that?

Purnell: Well, the young the really good player, his name escapes me I watched tape with him in the game he's a glue he's been a glue guy for them, and so on and so forth. The last three tapes we've seen, he hasn't been there. We have seen them play without him. So that's the way we're preparing. We can only watch him on tape. Last three tapes we've seen him, he's not there. Part I think it was an Iowa State game, we watched actually watched him get hurt. Which was didn't look good. That wasn't nice to see. So yeah, we've had a chance to look at him that way.

We understand they have other good players, they're going to plug them in there. Their style, their philosophy has not changed. Somebody was saying how much they've struggled and so on and so forth. It's similar to saying we've struggled. I think you better look at who they're playing before you say they're struggling. Kansas, Kansas State, they're okay. So I don't view it as they're struggling. They're certainly adjusting from losing a very good player and one of their insiders. And we've had to do that this year with Demontez Stitt. But good teams find a way to adjust. And they move on.

I don't see them we didn't change the way we played when Demontez was out. Missouri has not changed the way that they play. So we have to approach it just like the guy was never there, almost.

One quick follow up. Do you specifically target a game plan to take advantage of Laurence Bowers' wrist, for instance?

Purnell: No, no. I don't think so. I think he's one of their long insiders that blocks shots and goes to the glass and still runs the floor. He's so long. So, no, no.

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