Littlejohn Coliseum to host Top 10 teams for first time in 12 years on Saturday

by - Senior Writer -

Saturday is going to be a rarity in the history of Littlejohn Coliseum when the Clemson Tigers play host to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, with two teams ranked in the Top 10 in the nation playing for what could be first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A top ten battle has not happened in Littlejohn in almost 12 years.

The second-ranked Demon Deacons are one of three unbeaten teams left in the nation at 14-0, along with Clemson (16-0, 10th in the AP and ninth in the ESPN/USA Today) and No. 1-ranked Pitt (15-0), and are coming off a big win against pre-season No. 1 UNC Sunday evening.

Wake Forest is ranked 2nd in the nation, while Clemson moved into the Top 10 in both polls for the first time since November of 1997 when they were ranked fifth in the AP poll and seventh by USA Today.

The teams tip off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Littlejohn in a game televised by ABC.

However, the Deacons have to get by Boston College first, on Wednesday night. Boston College dealt UNC their only other loss of the season, but followed that huge road win with a loss to Harvard at home in their next game. Dino Gaudio said you can never take a night off in the ACC, and there is no way his Demon Deacons will be overlooking Boston College and looking ahead to Clemson.

“In the ACC, you have the pressure of playing pivotal game after pivotal game,” Gaudio said. “It is an incredible challenge for all of us every night. In this league, night in and night out, anybody can beat anybody. If you do not bring it every night and you are not ready to play, anybody can beat anybody. That is how I feel about Saturday.”

The battle of the top ten titans will be just the fifth match up of top ten teams in the 41-year history of Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum. The previous four meetings were all against ACC teams, including one meeting against Wake Forest and all four took place during the 1996-97 season.

Clemson was ranked second in AP and third in the coaches poll and Wake Forest was second by the Coaches and fourth by AP entering the January 23, 1997 game at Clemson, in which the Deacons came away with a 65-62 victory.

Overall, this will be the ninth battle of top 10 teams in Clemson history, regardless of site. The first took place in Milwaukee, WI in December of 1976 when a Clemson team ranked 10th by the UPI Coaches lost to a Marquette team ranked fifth by the coaches and sixth by the AP, 67-49. Marquette went on to win the national championship behind head coach Al McGuire, who was coaching in his final year.

Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell, whose team is coming off a 63-51 victory over N.C. State on Saturday, said there is a reason the Demon Deacons have gotten off to a great start.

“Any time you go against a really good basketball team, there are more than one reason why they are undefeated,” Purnell said. “They are very good in most areas. Their guard play is outstanding, and generally good teams have guard play that is outstanding.

“They have great size, and they have great athleticism with their size and quickness. They can shoot the ball well, and it is hard to find a weakness with their club, and that is why they have done so well so far and why they are having a great year.”

Top 10 Games Involving Clemson

Date Site Opponent AP-C AP-C W-L CU-Opp

12-27-76 A Marquette 11-10 6-5 L 49-67

2-21-87 A North Carolina 10-10 3-3 L 80-96

1-7-97 H Duke 5-5 10-9 W 86-82

1-23-97 H Wake Forest 2-3 4-2 L 62-65

2-8-97 H Maryland 10-8 7-9 W 80-68

2-12-97 A Wake Forest 7-6 2-2 L 49-55

2-18-97 A Duke 8-7 6-6 L 77-84

2-26-97 H North Carolina 12-10 8-9 L 69-76

1-17-09 H Wake Forest 10-9 2-3

Note: Top 10 in Either Poll entering game

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