Basketball: Tigers Prepare To Meet Gamecocks


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - One week after the emotionally-charged matchup between the Clemson and South Carolina football teams, their basketball counterparts are set to square off.

The teams will meet at 4 p.m. Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum, with Purnell trying to run his record to an impressive 4-1 against the Gamecocks.

But it won't be easy. This USC team has reloaded at the guard position with a pair of transfers - Devan Downey and Zam Fredrick - and can run and shoot the 3-ball aplenty. In fact, the Gamecocks (4-3) hit a school-record 16 shots from behind the arc Wednesday night in a 92-52 rout of Campbell.

"That just shows they have a good shooting basketball team," Purnell said before Thursday's practice. "Sometimes early on a player or two may not shoot the ball well percentage-wise. But just in watching them shoot, you understand that the reason some of their kids were recruited was because of their shooting ability.

"I would like to see those made threes out of their system. We can't afford to leave their shooters open. Downey has shot the ball well all season long."

Downey is the key to the USC offense.

With the ball in his hands, he tries to push tempo at every opportunity. Clemson, too, likes to run. But the Tigers are much more effective when they are the ones dictating the speed of the game, not the other way around.

"There's no question that he's a key to their team. He keys their running game. He initiates their half-court offense, whether it be versus man or zone defense. He's their quarterback," Purnell said.

"We have to do a pretty good job on him. That doesn't necessarily mean stopping him from scoring. We can stop him from creating for others. That will help, because I think he's going to score. But when he scores and creates for others, obviously he's doing a much better service for his team."

Clemson comes into Saturday's game a perfect 6-0 on the season and ranked No. 18 in the country.

The Tigers will again be without James Mays, though the senior's hip injury isn't a serious as originally thought. He could be back in time for the team's swing through Puerto Rico.

But that's down the road. What matters now is Saturday's game:

Another chance to get a resume-building win vs. an SEC opponent for NCAA Tournament play, and another victory over your arch-rival to boot.

"It is a rivalry game, so we know we have to be a little more pumped up for this game," said senior Cliff Hammond. "You don't want them to have bragging rights for a whole year. I don't think the coaches have to give speeches to pump us up, we'll be ready for this game."

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