Purnell: Littlejohn should be "fuller and louder"


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CLEMSON - Oliver Purnell says that Saturday afternoon, at oh, say 3:30 or so, he fully expects Littlejohn Coliseum to be packed and rocking.

Purnell’s 10th-ranked Tigers (16-0 overall, 2-0 ACC) play host to the 2nd-ranked Demon Deacons (15-0, 2-0) at that time on Saturday, in a game that is a sellout and will be televised nationally by ABC. While the loser certainly won’t be out of the running with so many league games left to play, the winner definitely has a leg up on the competition., and Purnell admits to the importance one game can have on the rest of the season.

“Wake Forest is playing as well as anyone in the country,” Purnell said. “We watched them play Wednesday night and they don’t have a lot of weaknesses. They happen to be one of the top teams in the conference, along with ourselves and Duke. We want to finish in first place, and winning games like this against teams in the top echelon help you do that.”

The Demon Deacons already count a win against North Carolina, pre-season No. 1 in the nation, as part of their resume, and went on the road Wednesday night to Boston College in what could have been a “trap” game and demolished the Eagles 83-63, giving them a 15-0 start, matching the 15-0 start to the program’s 1926-27 campaign as the best in school history.

The teams are two of the three unbeaten left in the nation, and the only two in the ACC, and Clemson captain K.C. Rivers says the Deacons deserve all of their accolades to this point.

“Wake is an aggressive team,” Rivers said. “They play with a chip on their shoulders. They’re young, but they’re well-coached.”

Purnell said that the some of the lumps last year’s Wake team took on their journey throughout the league is paying off so far this season.

“The difference in Wake this year is their experience,” Purnell said. “Last season they were young and athletic and talented, and it’s the same this season except they now have experience and high level recruits playing at a high level.”

The one player that Purnell mentioned his Tigers would definitely have their eye on is sophomore Jeff Teague. The 6-2, 180-pounds sophomore is averaging 21.2 points per game this season, and scored 29 points against Boston College after scoring 34 against the Tar Heels.

Teague is one of the quicker players in the league, and could cause matchup problems for Clemson as Purnell decides who will guard him along with starting point guard Demontez Stitt.

“We have to try to keep him from having a monster game, which he’s capable of doing,” Purnell said. “We might put Trevor (Booker) on him some. It’ll be quite a challenge, but it’ll be our guys trying to guard him by committee and as a team. But they are deep and talented, and have an experienced bench.

“In our league, Demontez has a challenge every night, but none bigger than Jeff Teague. We don’t look at it as one guy has to guard him head-to-head, because the way we play defense in transition may see different players on him.”

Which leads to what might be Clemson’s secret weapon - a sold-out, loud and raucous Littlejohn Coliseum.

“We want Littlejohn to be one of if not the toughest places to play in the country,” Purnell said. “This game is sold out and we expect Littlejohn to be sold out the rest of the way. We had a great atmosphere against Alabama, and the place was full against N.C. State. It should be fuller and louder this week.

“It doesn’t get much better than this Saturday afternoon, with a game on our home court against a top five team on ABC.”

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