Tigers, Deacs Set To Tangle At Littlejohn


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Two teams looking to gain some sort of momentum inside the Atlantic Coast Conference square off Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Clemson (12-3, 1-1 ACC) welcomes Skip Prosser and Wake Forest (11-3, 0-1) to town, the first of two home conference games for the Tigers this week. Clemson will host No. 1 Duke on Saturday.

The Tigers are coming off a difficult road loss last Saturday at Virginia, a game in which the bigger Cavaliers dominated Oliver Purnell's team on the boards, 39-21. The Demon Deacons, meanwhile, opened ACC play with a loss to the top-ranked Blue Devils last time out.

So with both teams coming in off defeats, the prospect a single loss becoming a losing streak in a league such as the ACC doesn't sit well with Purnell. And he doesn't expect it to sit well with Wake Forest, either.

"If you lost your last game out, you're going to come out next time more inspired and with a sense of urgency," said Purnell. "You know how tough it is to win in this league, and nobody wants to get on a losing streak. So you want to get that next game out. In college basketball when you lose one you come back a little bit hungrier, and Wake Forest will be no exception."

For Clemson, avoiding a second straight loss will be an uphill challenge, literally and figuratively.

Wake Forest has dominated this series in recent years, winning five straight and 12 of the last 13 games played between the teams. The Deacs rolled to a 103-68 victory at Littlejohn Coliseum a year ago.

Clemson hasn't won since a 118-115, double overtime thriller back in the 2001-2002 season.

With leading rebounder James Mays lost for the season due to academic problems, Clemson's ability to matchup with Wake Forest isn't nearly as strong. Much like Virginia, the Deacs can go big in their lineup - led by senior center Eric Williams (6-foot-9, 280 pounds), who averages 15.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest.

"(Wake Forest)can put a team out there with size right through their lineup," Purnell said. "At Virginia (the Cavs would) miss a shot then get the rebound and stick it back in. That really plagued us in the first half. Wake Forest has that ability, to get big.

"That's how they bothered us last year. So that's the thing that probably bothers me the most, although there are a lot of things they do well."

The Deacs have two other players averaging double figure points heading into Wednesday's contest - senior guard Justin Gray (17.8) and senior forward Trent Strickland (13.2).

NOTES

- Clemson has a +3.47 turnover margin, fourth best in the ACC and a figure that would rank third best in Clemson history for a season. Clemson is forcing 19.33 turnovers per game, second best in the ACC and at a pace to rank second best in Clemson history over a season. Clemson's 11.07 steals per game is ahead of the single season record of 10.89 set in 1976-77.

- Clemson is off to a 12-3 start, its best 15 game start since 2002-03 when Clemson was also 12-3.

- Clemson has been up and down in terms of rebounding in its two ACC games, and has had a direct effect on the outcome. Clmeson was +14 on the boards in the win over Florida State and -18 in rebound margin in the loss at Virginia last Saturday.

- Point guard Vernon Hamilton is Clemson's scoring leader with a 11.9 average. Hamilton is shooting 48 percent from the field. He entered the season with a 40.4 percent field goal percentage. He has 11 double figure scoring games in the first 15 contests this year. He had eight double figure scoring games all of last year.

- Hamilton is trying to become the first Tiger guard to shoot 50 percent or better over the course of a season since Michael Tait shot .517 in 1986-87.

- Shawan Robinson has 26 three-point goals and 166 for his career. He needs just two to go past Chris Whitney (167) into third place on the Clemson career list. He needs 51 points to reach 1000 for his career.

- Akin Akingbala scored 16 points in a loss to Wake Forest last year. That is Akingbala's career high in an ACC game in his four years at Clemson.

- Clemson coach Oliver Purnell and Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser met 13 times when Purnell was at Dayton and Prosser at Xavier (1994-01). Prosser had a 7-6 advantage in those games. The home team won 12 of the 13 games and Prosser won the only neutral site game.

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