Tigers Hope to get Back on Winning Track at Miami

by - Correspondent -
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MIAMI - As Clemson's tough road through the first half of the ACC schedule continues, so do the painful losses.

A last-second giveaway leading to the game-winning basket at Virginia Tech, and a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer which would have won the game are just the latest two road burdens the Tigers (10-8, 1-5 ACC) have to bear. The only school in the league opening conference play with five of its first seven games on the road, Clemson's recent struggles would demoralize many teams.

But head coach Oliver Purnell has been stressing the positive of late, and one issue that's gone unnoticed perhaps is a slow awakening of the perimeter offense.

Freshman guard Cheyenne Moore was named the ACC Rookie of the Week after averaging 14.5 points in losses to North Carolina (home) and at Virginia. After starting for most of the season, junior guard Shawan Robinson was brought off the bench at Virginia and responded with a 4-of-5 shooting night from behind the 3-point arc.

The trick for Purnell and his staff now is to find a way to keep those two going and get freshman Cliff Hammonds out of his recent shooting slump. Doing so would take significant pressure off senior center Sharrod Ford's work in the paint, and give the Tigers better opportunities for offensive success.

"It was good to see our offense shake free a little bit (at Virginia)," Purnell said. "We hit some shots, particularly from 3-point land. Or defense let us down the second half, giving up 67 percent shooting.

"We just have to keep working hard and preparing for our opponents, and hopefully things will start falling our way."

Robinson played so well coming off the bench that he'll likely repeat that role tonight when Clemson visits Miami (12-5, 3-3) for the first time as a conference opponent.

Purnell's decision to bench Robinson was a standard coaching move - give the player a chance to watch the early part of the game from a different perspective and hope he can step right into the flow when called on.

"It was good to see Shawan Robinson knocking down some shots," Purnell said. "We took him out of the starting lineup mainly to give him a different look...sometimes that's all it takes to shake a guy like that loose."

Of course, the Tigers' main formula for success continues to be defense and rebounding. Both areas will get a test tonight vs. the Hurricanes' three-guard attack.

Much like Virginia Tech last week, Miami will put the ball in the hands of sophomore Guillermo Diaz (18.8 points per game), freshman Robert Hite (17.5) and sophomore Anthony Harris (12.3). Any one of the three can cause matchup problems with the ability to create off the dribble.

Clemson's charge is to keep that havoc to a minimum.

"They're a tough matchup. They go with three guards, and they're outstanding guards," Purnell said. "They spread the floor and drive, and it's a tough matchup. Especially if you want to stay big and play big.

"Their big guys are serviceable, but they rely on the perimeter guys to create things and score."


- This will be the first meeting between Clemson and Miami since the 2001-02 season when the Hurricanes defeated Clemson 67-65 in the championship game of the Paradise Jam;

- Two current Tigers were on the Clemson roster the last time Clemson played Miami. Ford, then a freshman in his third career game, played just four minutes as a reserve and had no points and one rebound in the 67-65 Miami win in the Virgin Islands. It is one of just seven games in Ford's career in which he failed to score. Olu Babalola was on the roster, but did not play in that game.

- Clemson does have a 5-1 advantage in the all-time series with Miami. Four of the previous six games have been on neutral sites. The two teams played a home and home series in 1994-95 and 1995-96, Rick Barnes first two years as Clemson head coach. Clemson won both meetings, including a 14-point win in overtime in Miami in December of 1995;

- Clemson will attempt to become just the third school since 1971 to win at Miami in football and men's basketball in the same academic year. Syracuse (1997-98) and Florida (1985-86) are the other institutions to do it. Clemson beat the Hurricanes on the gridiron 24-17 in overtime last fall.

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