Undefeated Tigers Face Toughest Test Yet

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON -- The ACC/Big 10 Challenge is one of those early-season events that let you know the games against the weak cousins are almost over, and the real competition is about to heat up.

This year is no different for head coach Oliver Purnell's Clemson Tigers, who take to the road tonight, where the Tigers take a 7-0 record to Champagin, Ill., to meet the 6-0 Fighting Illini of Illinois.

The game starts at 7:30 and will televised on ESPN2.

Illinois has gotten their six wins against mostly subpar competition, with their best coming against Kent State in the South Padre Island Invitational last week, but Purnell knows they are still dangerous.

They're a pretty balanced team, pretty solid team, undefeated," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "We're going on their court in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, and it's going to take a whale of a game for us to beat them."

Illinois has been getting steady play from a pair of sophomores. Forward Mike Davis leads the Illini in scoring (12.7) and rebounding (9.7), while center Mike Tisdale was named co-Big Ten player of the week Monday after averaging 16 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in last weeken's tournament.

Meanwhile, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said he knows the Tigers will be the sternest test his team has faced so far.

"This may be the best team we play (before the Big Ten season) because of their experience and style of play," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "I think Clemson will be one of the top four-five in the ACC as the year proceeds."
Illinois is 3-6 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, while the ACC has won all nine Challenges, going 56-30 against the Big Ten entering this season.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are 7-2 all-time in the challenge, including 4-0 at home and 3-2 on the road. Last year, an 18th-ranked Clemson team held off Purdue 61-58 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Other notes form the challenge and Clemson

• Home teams are 56-21 in ACC-Big Ten Challenge play ... the ACC is 33-4 on its home court while the Big Ten is 23-17 ... there have been nine "neutral site" games, with the ACC holding a 6-3 advantage.

• Clemson sophomore Terrence Oglesby has made at least one 3-point field goal in 15 straight games, including 13 games with two or more ... K.C. Rivers is tied with Sharone Wright (1992-94) for 17th on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,308 points ... over his last two games Trevor Booker is averaging 21.0 points and 7.5 rebounds ... Booker leads the team in scoring (14.0), rebounding (9.7) and blocked shots (2.7) ... over his last three games Demontez Stitt is averaging 10.7 points and 3.7 assists.

• The ACC (.667) and the Big Ten (.619) rank first and third, respectively, among conferences in NCAA Tournament winning percentage

• Teams that lead at halftime are 65-19 (.774) in Challenge play ... there have been two ties at halftime ... the largest halftime deficit overcome was 12 points (39-27) by Georgia Tech in a 62-61 win over Wisconsin in 2001 ... the ACC has won 15 games after trailing at halftime, the Big Ten four ... a year ago, both Clemson and North Carolina posted Challenge wins after trailing at the intermission.

• Teams that shoot 50 percent or better in Challenge play are 26-5 (.839) ... the lowest field goal percentage by a winning team was 29.8 percent by Iowa in a 45-42 win over NC State in 2005.

• 47 of the 86 Challenge games played to date have had at least one ranked team playing ... 22 games have had both teams ranked ... in the 2001 game between Michigan State and Virginia that was cancelled because of a slippery floor, both teams were ranked.

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