Tigers Looking for First Back to Back Road Win Since 1997

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - A victory at Florida State earlier this week brought forth some fairly interesting numbers concerning Clemson basketball.

The 56-54 victory was the first ACC road win for head coach Oliver Purnell in 10 tries, it snapped a 12-game ACC road losing streak, and was just Clemson's fourth road victory in its last 50 attempts inside conference play. Those are the kind of numbers haunting the Tigers' program, the kind of trend Purnell is trying so desperately to reverse.

But because of that victory, Clemson (10-5, 1-1 ACC) has a unique opportunity today at Virginia Tech - a chance to make it two in a row on the road.

"The Florida State win was big," Purnell said. "But adding this to it would make it huge. Then you're starting to see the kind of progress we're looking for."

For the record, a win today over the Hokies would mean:

- Clemson had won back-to-back ACC road games for the first time since the 1996-97 season. Clemson won at Florida State on Jan. 11, 1997, then won at Maryland on Jan. 15, 1997 (eight years ago today);

- The Tigers would have two ACC road wins in the same week, also for the first time since 1996-97 and just the fifth time in Clemson history;

- Clemson would have two ACC road wins in the same season for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign, and just the fifth time since the Tigers won the ACC regular season in 1989-90.

Virginia Tech (7-6, 0-2) has struggled out of the gates in its first year of ACC competition.

But the Hokies, under third-year head coach Seth Greenburg, are very similar to Clemson in makeup - long, lean and athletic. Four of their five starters average double figure points, led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Carlos Dixon (14.3 per game).

"And they're probable better off the dribble than we are," Purnell said. "They like to spread you out and take you off the dribble with their guards, where we're more inclined to spread it out and try to go inside to Sharrod (Ford) or Akin (Akingbala)."

What's more, Purnell figures Tech will be even more dangerous than normal this afternoon.

Already 0-2 in the conference, the Hokies likely are fighting for their season beginning today, he said.

"I've coached up there many times. That can be a good basketball atmosphere," Purnell said. "This is a big game for them...they'll be focused and ready for us, I promise you."

Purnell said senior Olu Babalola is expected to start for the second straight game in place of Akingbala. Purnell cited Virginia Tech's smaller lineup (no starter over 6-8) and athleticism as reasons for the move.

The switch puts Babalola at the power forward, or four, position, and moves Ford to the No. 5 spot (center).

Tipoff today in Blacksburg is Noon. The game will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot.

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