Tigers Hope to Keep Season Alive Against FSU


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<font class=caption>The Tigers will need a big game from Will Solomon.</font>
The Tigers will need a big game from Will Solomon.

CLEMSON - A week littered with off-court distractions might affect some teams as the conference tournament approaches, but Clemson head basketball coach Larry Shyatt isn't worried.

In the days prior to Tuesday's announcement that Shyatt indeed would return for a fourth season, speculation about his job security had evolved from a few whispers on the street to straight-forward questions by reporters following last Sunday's loss to Florida State in the regular-season finale.

But that's where it ended, at least as far as Shyatt is concerned. At no time did the question of his future employment filter into the inner circle and impact the young Tigers.

"It's never been an issue with our ball club," Shyatt said Wednesday. "Only preparation. Something like that never would make its way into our locker room."

It's a good thing, too, because Clemson already has enough problems without such distractions.

Clemson is 1-11 in its last 12 games, the lone victory being the stunning upset of then No. 1 North Carolina on Feb. 18. Since then the Tigers have lost four straight, including a disappointing 75-63 defeat last weekend at home to the Seminoles, which locked up the worst record in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

But when teams meet again Thursday - this time in the ACC Tournament play-in game (7 p.m., ESPN) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta - none of that matters. All that counts Thursday is obvious:

Win and you get a shot at top-seeded North Carolina. Lose and next year comes early.

That being the case, Shyatt spent the first part of this week working as much on his team's mental approach as he did the actual game plan for the third meeting with Florida State.

"When you haven't had the success we've been looking for, then there's a tendency to be a little fragile," he said. "That may be in the form of the chemistry, internal motivation, how hard you're focusing as a group...

"That's our biggest and most important battle: How do we get out there and play as one, and have that passion, and have that Œwe can get it done' thought process. Right now that to me is equally as important as the sets Florida State gives us."

Clemson's success Thursday could ride on two factors:

- Defensive stops: In the past month Tigers have allowed opponents to go on scoring binges, runs such as 12-0 or 17-2, to blow open close games. Better defense and more accurate shooting are necessary to buck that trend.

- Will Solomon: During the same time frame, Solomon's scoring has been down and his shooting percentage worse. The junior guard needs to rediscover his stroke if Clemson is to make any noise beyond Thursday's game.


Dan Scott is the host of SportsTalk (10AM-Noon) on 104.9 FM in Upstate SC and
Managing Editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger

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