Blossomgame and Tigers ready for challenge the Gamecocks present


by - Senior Writer -
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Clemson and South Carolina tip off at 9 p.m. Wednesday

CLEMSON – Clemson has just two out of conference games remaining before ACC play starts on New Year’s Eve, and the most critical of those two games also happens to be a rivalry game.

Clemson (8-2) travels to Columbia tomorrow night to take on arch-rival South Carolina in Colonial Life Arena. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU. Clemson enters Wednesday's contest on a six-game winning streak, and they are 2-0 against SEC competition so far this season, recording wins over Georgia and Alabama.

The Tigers knocked off the Crimson Tide in Birmingham this past Sunday, recording a 67-54 victory. Alabama led 9-7 at the 14:03 mark in the first half, but it was all Clemson from there as the Tigers ripped off a 15-0 run to build a 22-9 lead. The Tide trimmed the margin to single digits just once as Clemson cruised to the win.

Senior forward Jaron Blossomgame told TigerNet Tuesday the win was critical as the Tigers edge towards conference play and the rivalry game.

“It was good to play against some guys our size and just as athletic us because we are going to see that in the conference,” Blossomgame said. “It's a good measuring stick for where we are right now. We have a game tomorrow, and we are going to focus on that game. We haven't beat them in the last two years so it would be good to go down there and beat them in my last season.”

Clemson has 27 wins at South Carolina (second-most road wins over any opponent in program history), including most recently in 2012-13 behind 16 points and five blocks from K.J. McDaniels. However, South Carolina has won the last two meetings.

“It's important for us to beat our rival, but we are also trying to build something bigger here,” Blossomgame said. “We want to win the ACC Championship and play in the NCAA Tournament, so winning games like this will help us. We understand the opportunity we have moving forward.”

Clemson faces one of the country's stingiest defenses in South Carolina. The Gamecocks are third nationally in field goal percentage defense (.346) and fourth in scoring defense (57.7). The Tigers are fifth in the NCAA in turnover margin (+6.3) and 10th in fewest turnovers per game (10.2) and Blossomgame said the game would provide one of the Tigers’ best challenges to date.

“We are very competitive. They are a good team and they've gotten us the last two years. But we have a really good team, we've done some good things this year, and they've done some good things this year,” he said. “They are 9-1 this year, and they've beaten some good teams. It will definitely be a good challenge for us. They beat us last year in Greenville so we have a chip on our shoulder this year and we want to take care of business.”

GAMEDAY MATCHUP
CLEMSON (8-2) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA (9-1)

Tipoff: 9 p.m. ET
Arena: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Radio: CTSN (Tony Castricone-pbp; Tim Bourret-color)
TV: ESPNU (Kevin Fitzgerald-pbp; Chris Spatola-color)
• Clemson enters Wednesday's contest on a six-game winning streak. The Tigers are 2-0 against SEC competition so far this season, recording wins over Georgia and Alabama.
• Clemson has 27 wins at South Carolina (second-most road wins over any opponent in program history), including most recently in 2012-13 behind 16 points and five blocks from K.J. McDaniels.
• The Tigers are in search of their first win over a top-25 Gamecock team since 1997-98, when Clemson won 62-57 in Littlejohn Coliseum.

SERIES HISTORY
CU Series W-L record: South Carolina leads 90-76
Streak: South Carolina has won the last two meetings

TIGER TRACKS
• Clemson faces one of the country's stingiest defenses in South Carolina. The Gamecocks are third nationally in field goal percentage defense (.346) and fourth in scoring defense (57.7). The Tigers are fifth in the NCAA in turnover margin (+6.3) and 10th in fewest turnovers per game (10.2).
Shelton Mitchell scored a career-high 18 points in the win over Alabama, with an efficient shooting effort of 6-10 field goals and 4-4 free throws.
Gabe DeVoe has a streak of 10 straight games with at least one three-point goal to open the 2016-17 season, the longest of his career.
• Jaron Blossomgame needs 17 points to pass Larry Nance for 17th on Clemson's all-time scoring list. Nance played 12 seasons in the NBA.
Elijah Thomas made his Clemson debut against the Crimson Tide, chipping in five points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.
• Associate head coach Mike Winiecki was named to the Richmond Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2017. Winiecki scored over 1,000 points and was part of two NCAA Tournament teams for the Spiders.


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