TAMPA, Fla. – Clemson Coach Brad Brownell spent a lot of time in Thursday's loss to West Virginia screaming at the officials.
"Illegal!" he said again and again and almost always directed at WVU's Cam Thoroughman and the screens he set around half court.
Thoroughman was never called for a foul, but fouled up Clemson's defense.
"I noticed a couple times I wasn't even close to them and they were checking me out and trying to find out where I was," Thoroughman said. "It really takes a lot of pressure off our guys and doesn't make it so hard to get the ball up the court. They can think about getting us in the offense and other things instead of trying to create space."
The Mountaineers struggled breaking Clemson's pressure defense for a majority of the first half, but Thoroughman kept inserting his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame into the action and letting point guards Truck Bryant or Joe Mazzulla run their defenders into his body.
The Tigers slowly backed off and tried to find Thoroughman and run around him. When Thoroughman did set screens, Clemson players were visibly upset and sometimes barked at teammates for not calling it out in advance.
That's not the first time it's happened this season.
"Sometimes I get a pretty good shot in on them and they don't see me coming, they hit the ground pretty hard," he said. "Other times they see it coming and it doesn't really affect them that much. Either way, whenever they're pressuring Joe and Truck, after I get them once or twice pretty good, they're turning their heads and I don't get to apply as much pressure.
"So a lot of it is trying to get our offense better. But I'd love to go up there and tee off on those guys like that."
Kentucky, which meets WVU at 12:15 p.m. today at the St. Pete Times Forum, pressures similarly. WVU will again need to find ways around the defense to get into its offense in the third-round game of the NCAA Tournament.
"That's what Cam wants to do," Bryant said. "Cam wants to get jump shots for guys and help them make plays. If you run down the court and Cam sees an opening for you, he will scream, like, 'Run behind me, run behind me.' He just looks for anybody to get them a shot."
* * *
Since entering the starting lineup against Louisville Jan. 26, Mazzulla is 7-for-14 from 3-point range. He was 1-for-13 this season before that. Mazzulla has also made 50 of 71 free throws since the Louisville game and was 10-for-12 against Clemson in the second-round win Thursday.
"This is best it's felt probably since before the injury and that summer when I really made the effort to work on my outside shot," Mazzulla said of his long road back from the shoulder injury that robbed him of the 2009 season. "I really wanted to make that somewhat my strength back then, but this is as good as I've felt since."
Mazzulla didn't attempt a 3 against Clemson, but has still made 4 of his last 6, including 2 of 3 against Marquette in the Big East Tournament, when the Golden Eagles employed a unique defense.
They actually guarded him on the perimeter.
"That really caught me off guard," he said. "The first six or seven minutes they picked me up on the other side of half court and came out on me. To be honest with you, I didn't know how to handle it because I wasn't used to it."
* * *
The Wildcats will probably cover Mazzulla, too, based solely on their experience with him in the Elite Eight last season and not because of anything they've seen on film.
Kentucky is almost the complete opposite of a WVU team that puts a lot of time and detail into preparation.
"We don't show them much tape of anybody we play," Kentucky Coach John Calipari said. "They'll see tape at the meal prior to the game. They don't get a scouting report. That's all season. They never get a scouting report. Whatever they get, it's from us. I'm worried about my team."
* * *
WVU Coach Bob Huggins is 8-1 against Calipari, but qualified that record by saying there's been no secret to his success against his longtime friend.
"If you would go back and look at the games, we've just been lucky, that's all," he said. "We've made some shots. We beat them in Memphis one time, I think it was a tie score, and we take a shot at the end of the shot clock, and we fortunately get the offensive rebound.
"My guy starts dribbling it out because he thinks we're ahead and Cal's guy jumps over and shuts him off to keep him from dribbling the ball back out to the top of the key so there's nobody between him and the basket so he goes and lays it in.
"He didn't realize we were up by two until they called time-out."
Considering Huggins and Calipari have known one another since Calipari's high school teammate Joe Fryz went to WVU and played with Huggins, Huggins was asked if perhaps he'd needle Calipari on occasion.
"No," he said, "We'll probably play again the next six NCAA Tournaments, so why would I do that?"
* * *
The two compete off the floor, too, and often recruiting the same players. Doron Lamb, one of Kentucky's three freshmen stars, was one of many who considered both coaches.
"West Virginia recruited me, but they weren't in my top five," Lamb said. "Coach Cal recruited me hard, wanted me to be a shooting guard in the dribble-drive offense and I liked his coaching staff and the fans really. That's why I came here. "
Devin Ebanks picked WVU over Calipari and Memphis in 2008, but the list of players who chose one over the other is lengthy.
"I don't take recruiting personal," Calipari said. "If the families decide that they want to play for another coach, whether it's Bob or anybody else, I move on. … With Bob or anybody, I try real hard not to take this stuff personal. Move on to the next young man who really wants to play for us or me personally."
* * *
Calipari's freshman class last season featured four players who were first-round draft picks. He replaced that with Lamb, Southeastern Conference freshman of the year Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, who leads the team in scoring, made a game-winner against Princeton Thursday and is next a line of Calipari point guards that includes Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall.
"I told him that his curve is probably sharper than even Derrick's or Tyreke's or John's," Calipari said. "Where he was at the beginning of the year and where he is now, you're talking about a freshman, 18-year-old guard, leading his team, playing just about every minute that he can stand on that basketball court.
"And we're one of the five teams in the country with the least amount of turnovers. He's running the club, he's still scoring. We need him to score points. He's kind of going through what Tyreke and John Wall went through. Those two in high school took a lot of shots, just like Brandon, and had to figure out, 'How do I do this within this team?' Derrick was a little different. We had to get him to shoot."
* * *
Calipari and Huggins are coaches whose names are quickly associated with the names of their schools. They're also polarizing personalities and Calipari acknowledged stereotypes do exist.
"You guys put a black hat on some of us and you put a white hat on some of us and I'm not going to be able to fight it," he said. "I just do my job, take care of kids. Bob does the same. Graduate our kids wherever we've been. We've helped them reach their dreams and develop habits that have helped them later on in life. They've all stayed in touch.
"At the end of the day, 50 years from now, what we've accomplished, Bob and myself, it's there, and when there's no emotion to it, you look at what we've done in the communities we've been, with the athletes we've had, the graduation rates we've had, what we've done on those college campuses, what we've done to give back, and people will judge us that way.
* * *
Huggins is often judged on sideline appearance and behavior. He and his players were asked about what Huggins wears for games. Huggins said television makes it easy for viewers to observe his demeanor during a game and craft an opinion.
"What you see on TV, really the majority of the time, is just because they have a camera on me all the time," he said. "They don't have a camera on those other guys all the time. They have a camera on me all the time just waiting for me to do something stupid -- and generally I oblige."
N n n
John Flowers was called for a foul Thursday on the first shot of the game and went to the bench with two fouls at the 16:52 mark in the first half. Neither foul came against the opponent Flowers was guarding. On both he rolled over to defend someone who'd gotten past a teammate.
"I really like to help my teammates, but sometimes I've just got to take a charge instead of trying to get a block," he said. "You can't go for everything. I've just got to play smart and be aggressive at the same time. I try to play too aggressive at the same time and some people call it stupid, but I get a lot of blocked shots, and I like to get blocked shots, but I've just got to play smarter."
The Mountaineers would trail by 10 points a few times in the first half as the Tigers started 11-for-17 from the floor. Flowers returned to the game late in the first half as WVU managed to tie the score, but ended up playing just 22 minutes and finishing with three points and three rebounds.
He didn't foul out, but has done that five times this year. WVU is 1-4. In the team's 11 losses, he played fewer than 30 minutes seven times.
"Shot blockers make plays off the ball," Huggins said. "They're very rare guys that can make plays on the ball, but most of them make plays off the ball, the really good shot blockers. John has got to get the help, like our other guys do. John is our only shot at changing a shot or blocking shots, so we need him to do what he does."
* * *
Bryant missed last year's game against the Wildcats. He broke his right foot in a practice following the team's second-round victory against Missouri.
"I still was a part of something special, but now it feels extra good to be on the court," he said.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.