Sense of Urgency for Tigers as Wolfpack Come to Town

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Though it's too early to panic, there is at least a sense of urgency surrounding the Clemson men's basketball team these days.

Three losses in the final seconds - all on the road - are littered throughout Clemson's 1-6 start to the ACC season. At 10-9 overall, Oliver Purnell's Tigers are in the midst of a five game losing streak and just completed a stretch of five of seven games away from home.

Road weary and perhaps suffering from a bit of wounded pride, Clemson returns home this afternoon to entertain an N.C. State team (12-7, 2-4) also searching for consistency.

The trick now, said Purnell, is to keep searching for any positives that might lie ahead.

"The thing you have to keep in mind for our team, and I'm sure (Wolfpack coach) Herb (Sendek) is thinking the same thing, is we're not at the half-way point yet," he said. So somebody's going to be playing great just like Maryland was last year going down the stretch. They've got a chance to do it and we've got a chance to do it.

"I think there was urgency for the last game, but anytime you're 1-5 or 1-6 there's urgency in the next game."

Clemson's immediate sense of urgency is defending N.C. State's Princeton-style offense.

A year ago at Littlejohn Coliseum, the Tigers defended the cutting, back-door motion well enough to come away with a victory. But in the first matchup in Raleigh (N.C.), the Wolfpack got the better of Clemson - not only with the Princeton offense but by surprising Purnell's team with the transition game.

"We were a little taken off guard with them scoring so many points in transition," Purnell said. "We play head on so if somebody tries to go back door they have to go through our bodies. It usually takes a young player a couple of days to adjust to that because your habits have been formed all year long playing a different way."

Clemson's toughest matchup will be State senior guard Julius Hodge.

Hodge averages 18.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. His size (6-foot-7) makes him a tough matchup for most guards, and his ball-handling and ability to create shots off the dribble makes it dangerous to guard him with most post players.

And though he's not the only dangerous player in Sendek's lineup, slowing Hodge goes a long way to slowing the Wolfpack.

"They've got other good players. They're really good shooters and they've got some other players that are very crafty," Purnell said. "Ilian Evtimov comes to mind. (Marcus) Melvin who hurt us last year, they've got a couple of other guys who are playing now, so now they're deep...

"(But) they're lead by Julius Hodge, who's obviously a marvelous player."

- Each of the last four games in Littlejohn Coliseum between Clemson and N.C. State have been decided by five points or less. The teams have split the four games;

- Clemson won the last meeting between the two teams, 60-55 last year at Littlejohn Coliseum. It's Clemson's last win over an ACC team in Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson held the Pack to 6-of-37 from behind the 3-point line that night. The 31 missed 3-point attempts is the most by one team in Littlejohn Coliseum;

- Clemson has a 5-3 record against N.C. State in Littlejohn Coliseum since Herb Sendek became the head coach of the' Pack in 1996-97. In the five Clemson wins the Tigers have held the Pack to .222 3-point shooting (28-of-126). In the three 'Pack victories, N.C. State has made 48.4 percent of its 3-point attempts (36-of-74).

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