Shyatt Looks To Keep Streak Going Against Gamecocks


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Ask Larry Shyatt to explain his team's recent dominance over arch-rival South Carolina and the Clemson coach shrugs his shoulders.

He, like many others, has no explanation for why the Tigers have won six consecutive games against the Gamecocks. All Shyatt knows is he'd like to see the streak reach seven after Saturday's game in Columbia (7 p.m., Fox Sports South).

"I don't think you can focus on one simple item," he said of the streak. "It's been a different group each year, and really because it's come down to the last possession so many times if you're Clemson you have to feel really fortunate."

Last season's 61-58 Clemson win in Littlejohn Coliseum was a microcosm of the streak.

The game was a defensive struggle - the Tigers trailed 27-26 at halftime - that came down to the final possession. Clemson had an eight-point lead , 51-43, with 1:21 left, yet twice allowed the Gamecocks to draw within a single point. And after Ed Scott hit two free throws to give his team what proved to be the final three-point margin, the Tigers still had to withstand two Carolina 3-point attempts in the final seconds to hang on for the victory.

The life of the streak has been built on defense. Clemson has held South Carolina to just 37 percent field goal shooting in the six games, including a paltry 24 percent from the 3-point arc. The Tigers also have won the rebounding battle by an average margin of 38-29.

But those numbers mean little to a player like Adam Allenspach. The senior center's most important statistic is 3-0, his career record vs. the Gamecocks. He's hoping for 4-0 after Saturday.

"It a chance for me to not lose to them," he said. "It's a big game and it's going to be a hostile crowd, but hopefully we'll come out on top."

To do that, Clemson must deal with South Carolina's size and aggressive defensive strategy.

The Gamecocks expect to start Marius Petravicius (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) at center, and a pair of 6-7 forwards in Chuck Eidson and Calvin Clemmons. South Carolina's defensive philosophy lends itself to aggressively playing the passing lanes, making it difficult to execute in the halfcourt offense and, on a good night, leading to steals that start the fast break the other way.

"Those are two things we'd better be prepared for," Shyatt said. "Their size is probably better than anybody we've played up to this point. And certainly their defense and awareness...their ability to steal the basketball can cause problems on offense for us."

Notes:

- The Tigers received a minor scare during Friday's practice when junior guard and leading scorer Will Solomon suffered a twisted right ankle. This after spraining his left ankle two games ago.

As Friday's workout came to a close Solomon was on the sideline with ice on both ankles, but Shyatt said the latest injury didn't appear to be serious.

"When the gun goes off Solomon will be there," Shyatt said.

If Solomon hits double figures Saturday, he'll break the record of 36 consecutive games with at least 10 points he currently shares with Vince Yockel.

- The intensity of the Clemson-USC rivalry sometimes gets the best of not only fans and players, but coaches.

Such was the case briefly a year ago, when Shyatt and South Carolina coach Eddie Fogler had words in the tunnel following the Clemson victory. Friday, however, Shyatt wouldn't broach the subject.

"Our games have been hard fought by the players and owned by the players," he said. "That's where they should be."

- Though Clemson has won six in a row and 26 of the last 36 with the Gamecocks, South Carolina still leads the overall series 82-68. USC is 51-23 vs. Clemson in Columbia.

- Tonight is Shyatt's 100th game as a college head coach, his 72nd at Clemson. He was 19-9 in one year at Wyoming, and currently is 35-36 with the Tigers, including a perfect 2-0 against South Carolina.

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