Tigers Look to Get Back in the Win Column Against Yellow Jackets

by - Senior Writer -

The Clemson Tigers may not play a more crucial game this season, at least until tournament time rolls around, than Sunday evening’s home contest against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

That might be a bit of an overstatement, but there is no doubting that another loss, this one to a winless team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, would not be the a good harbinger for the rest of the season, even though the current two-game winless streak is to current No.1 Wake Forest and on the road at the Dean Dome to No. 5. North Carolina.

During the streak, however, and before, there were signs of inconsistency, and head coach Oliver Purnell said it might gut-check time for the Tigers (16-2 overall, 2-2) against the Yellow Jackets (9-9. 0-5).

“We have to be accountable, for the most part, for the way we’re playing,” Purnell said on Friday “If we’re going to be a good team, we can’t sit around and say the other team is forcing us to play bad all the time. We have to force the action. We have to dictate.

“We have to be accountable for executing better and staying with the game plan, regardless of whether it’s on a hostile away court or a vocal home court. At the same time, we need to recognize as we get there that we’re playing good teams, and we’re going to get exposed if we don’t.”

Despite the sluggish start for the Yellow Jackets and what should be a win for the Tigers against a lower-echelon team, Purnell said that Tech is still very dangerous as evidenced by their three ACC overtime losses.

“I think Tech has been little bit snake-bitten,“ Purnell said. “They have lost three overtime games n the league, and I personally think they are outstanding. (Forward Gani) Lawal is having an outstanding year on backboards (10.4 rebounds per game). Zachery Peacock is a veteran and leading their front line.

“Lewis Clinch is back in the fold permanently, and he’s a guy that can score big for them. (Iman) Shumpert is an outstanding freshman, but probably the most important thing for them is that Maurice Miller is back in the field. He is obviously a tremendous player, and they have three really good guards.“

The Tigers will go into the contest looking to improve offensively, which means getting junior forward Trevor Booker back on track, while also doing a better job on their press and transition defense, something that Purnell said the Tigers have worked on since the UNC loss.

Purnell talked about trying to feed the ball into Booker, and said it was not as simple as throwing the ball to him down low and expecting him to make a move.

“That (feeding Booker) is important, but it’s also important for us to understand, for Book to understand, that there are different ways to get involved on the offensive end of the floor,” he said. “He’s got to knock down free throws more and run the court more — he’s one of the fastest big guys you’ll ever find — and get off the glass more.”

Quick Facts about the Georgia Tech contest

Clemson has won four of the last six meetings with Georgia Tech. The two teams have split two meetings each of the last two year with each team winning on its home court. The home team has won 34 of the last 44 meetings in the series.

Georgia Tech enters Sunday’s game with an 0-5 league record, but three of the five losses have been in overtime.

Junior forward Trevor Booker went over the 1000 point mark when he scored nine against Wake Forest last Saturday. He now has 1011 career points. He is the 16th Clemson player in history to reach 1000 points during his junior year.

Booker leads the ACC in field goal percentage and blocked shots and is fourth in rebounding.

K.C. Rivers can become the winningest player in Clemson history with a win over Georgia Tech. He has played in 84 wins, the same total as Cliff Hammonds (2004-08) and Elden Campbell (1986-90). Rivers needs just 12 points to reach 1500 for his career. He will become the ninth player in Clemson history to reach 1500 points, the first to reach that mark since Terrell McIntyre, who was a senior in 1998-99 and finished with 1839.

Rivers needs just 13 three-point goals to become Clemson’s career leader. He has 247 and the record is 259 by McIntyre. He is 17th in ACC history in career three-point goals made.

Clemson sophomore Jerai Grant has 29 blocked shots in 272 minutes this year, a blocked shot every 9.38 minutes. That is on pace to be the seventh best blocked shots per minute figure in Clemson history. He is fifth in the ACC in blocked shots.

K.C. Rivers, Tanner Smith and Andre Young all have more steals than turnovers this year.

Clemson is shooting 67.1 percent from the foul line this year, on pace to be Clemson’s best percentage from the charity stripe in eight years. Clemson shot .702 from the line in 2000-01, the only year in the last 21 that Clemson has shot 70 percent from the line over the course of a season.

Freshman Andre Young has a 26/3 assist/turnover ratio in 10 home games this year.

Trevor Booker is shooting 62.1 percent from the field at home this year and averages a team best 16.7 points per game.

Clemson is ranked 10th in the latest RPI and has schedule ranking of #27 in the nation.

Clemson is ranked in the top 10 in the nation in both polls, Clemson has an 11-1 record as a top 20 team when playing Georgia Tech. The only Tech win took place in 1989-90 when Tech won in Atlanta, 85-69. Clemson was 20th and Georgia Tech was ranked 11th entering that game.

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