Clemson to Face Florida Atlantic in Puerto Rico


by - Correspondent -
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Freshman forward Chris Hobbs, who was scheduled to make his second consecutive start today, was scratched after he sprained an ankle during workouts in Puerto Rico.

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico - When Larry Shyatt looks at Florida Atlantic's starting lineup, he sees a team strikingly similar to his Clemson squad. Not so much in size or athleticism, but in experience.

That, he figures, will make for an interesting first-round matchup this morning (11 a.m.) in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic.

"We just played a team (Wofford) that started three seniors and two juniors," Shyatt said. "We will play a team (FAU) similar to Clemson in terms of age. They're a very young team, they have good size, have a good point guard, and have played better and better as the season has developed."

Clemson (6-2) enters today's matchup having won five of its last six games, though last Saturday's 78-74 victory over Wofford was anything but easy. With Will Solomon suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules, the Tigers blew a 20-point lead in the second half before making just enough plays down the stretch to secure the four-point win.

Freshman Tony Stockman, starting in place of Solomon, had a career-high 23 points to lead Clemson. Solomon is expected back in the lineup today.

Florida Atlantic has struggled to a 2-7 record in the early going and has only one starter - 6-foot-2 freshman guard Jeff Cowans - averaging in double figures (14.7 ppg). Three of the other four projected starters today are freshmen. The lone upperclassman is junior guard John Smart.

For Shyatt, three games in three days presents a plethora of challenges for his team.

Not only is there a possible second-round meeting with No. 22 Cincinnati looming Thursday, but Clemson's depth - which has been a pleasant surprise through eight games - will get its first severe test of the season.

"I don't think there's any question we'll need 11 guys," Shyatt said. "And we'll need to use (them) interchangeably, be it foul trouble, fatigue, injury or simply three straight games where maybe 32 minutes (has been) normal, maybe 26 is more appropriate in a tournament.

"We'll have that format in March, and we'll need to run the table at that time, too."

Notes:

- Freshman forward Chris Hobbs, who was scheduled to make his second consecutive start today, was scratched after he sprained an ankle during workouts in Puerto Rico. His status is questionable today. Ray Henderson will make his first start of the season in Hobbs' spot.

- The Clemson/FAU winner will face the Cincinnati/Youngstown State winner at 4 p.m. Thursday. The losers play at 11 a.m. the same day.

- Clemson's last trip to Puerto Rico was for the 1996 San Juan Thanksgiving Shootout. The Tigers made it to the championship game of that tournament before losing to Minnesota, 75-65.

- The Tigers are 1-0 all-time vs. Florida Atlantic, having defeated the Owls 99-89 in Dec. of 1990 in the championship game of the Florida International Tournament in Miami.

- Former Daniel High School standout Clay Fuller is on the FAU roster. Fuller's sister, Whitney, is engaged to former Clemson center Tom Wideman.

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