Tigers, Wolfpack Prepare For Sunday Matinee


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CLEMSON - It's been eight days since Oliver Purnell's Clemson basketball team took the floor. A strange time of the year for such a break, to be sure, but one that apparently came at just the right time.

The Tigers (14-5, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) host No. 15 North Carolina State (15-4, 4-2) Sunday at Littlejohn Coliseum (1:30 p.m.), and the rest may make a difference. The Wolfpack has established itself as the legitimate No. 2 team in the ACC thus far, and Purnell said his team will need every advantage it can get.

Including rest.

"I think the week off was good for us," Purnell said. "We were coming off that tough loss to Miami, and then turn right around and play an emotional game at Georgia Tech. I thought we could use the break."

There was no such break for the 'Pack. State was upset at home earlier this week by Seton Hall ("The Pirates didn't do us any favors," Purnell said), but before that loss Herb Sendek's team had been playing very well.

One reason has been the surprising emergence of sophomore center Cedric Simmons. After a nondescript freshman campaign, Simmons has blossomed this year. He currently averages nearly 13 points and seven rebounds per game, giving Sendek's Princeton offense something it has sorely lacked in recent years:

A consistent inside scoring presence.

"It really starts with Cedric Simmons," Purnell said. "He's become a legitimate inside presence for them offensively, and that's something they haven't had in a while. His play in there makes them much more dangerous.

"Now they try to establish the inside game first, then work outside to the 3-pointer. If they have success with Simmons in there, that makes them much more difficult to handle."

State also gets better play from its point guard spot than it did a year ago. Tony Bethel is healthy and running the Wolfpack offense to near perfection - content to distribute the ball, Bethel is the only State starter not averaging double figure points.

"Bethel was hurt last year, and hurt again earlier this year," said Purnell. "He's healthy now, and I think it shows. He runs that offense very, very well."

NOTES

- This will be the only meeting between Clemson and N.C. State this year. This is the second consecutive year State has come to Clemson for the only meeting of the year between the two teams;

- Clemson's win over Georgia Tech was its third in January. This is the first time since January of 1997 that Clemson has won more than two games in the first month of the calendar year. Clemson had a 6- 2 record in January of 1997;

- Shawa Robinson needs 10 points to reach 1000 for his career. It would be significant if he broke the barier against N.C. State because he is from Raleigh. Robinson is 16-29 from the field, including 6-14 from the three-point line in his career against the Wolfpack. Robinson had 15 points in Clemson's win over Georgia Tech;

- Clemson had a plus-15 turnover margin in its win over Georgia Tech, the best turnover margin for the Tigers in an ACC game since Feb. 22, 1969 when Clemson had a plus-17 in a loss to Maryland. Clemson won the game despite a -22 rebound margin, the lowest rebound margin in a Clemson victory in history;

- Three-point shooting has been the key stat for N.C. State in games at Clemson under head coach Herb Sendek. Sendek is 4-5 in Littlejohn Coliseum. State has made 49-94 from three-point land (.521) in its four wins at Clemson under Sendek and 28-122 (.222) in its five losses;

- If Clemson gains victory over NC State it would give Clemson four wins in the first half of the ACC schedule for the first time since 1996-97 when it was 6-2 in the first eight ACC games of the year.

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