CLEMSON -- Tonight we find out if being outrebounded by a smaller team was a fluke or has the beginnings of a disturbing pattern.
Clemson returns to action this evening, entertaining Northwestern in a nationally-televised game (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) at Littlejohn Coliseum. It is the first-ever meeting between the schools.
The Tigers (2-1) are coming off an 84-76 victory over The Citadel last Saturday, a game in which the smaller Bulldogs decimated Clemson on the boards. The Citadel held a 62-41 rebounding advantage overall, including an incredible 30-8 margin on the offensive boards.
The Bulldogs accomplished that margin by having all five players crash the boards on every shot, despite the fact that their tallest player was just 6-foot-8.
Tonight will be more of the same. Northwestern starts three players 6-2 in height, one 6-5 and another 6-8, so Clemson again figures to be tested in team rebounding.
How they react remains to be seen.
"It's a viable question, or you wouldn't have asked," Shyatt said Monday night. "We need to do a better job of gang rebounding...we've got to get everyone involved, including our guards. But let's see how (tonight) goes before we panic and say it's a pattern."
Clemson also will get a stern test in both patience and man-to-man defense.
Northwestern (2-1) runs a slow-down offensive set much like Princeton, one which lulls a defense to sleep and looks for the backdoor layup at every opportunity. That system, combined with the Wildcats' size, could lead to an interesting chess match between Shyatt and Northwestern coach Bill Carmody.
"What we've got to decide is (whether) to play a little softened-up zone to create more jump shots (for them), or go out and pressure them and (hopefully) force turnovers," Shyatt said. "They're a team you want to lead...then you can have a pretty good game. If you get behind you've got to make decisions quickly."
-- Sophomore forward/center Ray Henderson will dress tonight and could see action if needed. Henderson sat out against The Citadel to rest the hairline fracture in his left foot.
"He got on the floor for 25 minutes Sunday and 25 minutes (Monday)," Shyatt said. "We'd love to save him again, but he'll be there if we need him."
-- Clemson is 4-11 against Big 10 teams, including 0-3 under Shyatt. The Tigers have lost six straight games to Big 10 teams since beating Minnesota back in 1995-96.
-- The Tigers are shooting .711 from the free throw line through three games. The team hasn't finished a season above 70 percent from the charity stripe since 1986-87.
-- Clemson has scored at least 78 points in all three games so far this season, a mark it reached just four times last year.
Dan Scott is the sports editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger.
His columns can be read at www.dailyjournalmessenger.com.