CLEMSON - Preparing for the Women's National Invitational Tournament might have given Jim Davis cause for concern, had it not been for Kanetra Queen.
After all, slim as Clemson's hopes were for reaching the NCAA Tournament, there remained a flickering light at the end of the tunnel. At least until Sunday's selection show snuffed it out for good.
So hitting the floor for an evening workout - even before an official invitation to the WNIT made its way to the school, mind you - Queen, a sophomore, spoke up in the team huddle.
"She said, 'Well, as long as we're going to the NIT, we might as well win it,'" Davis said Tuesday. "That right there let me know the girls were going to stay focused."
Good thing, too, because the Charlotte (16-13) team coming into Littlejohn Coliseum tonight (7 p.m.) poses a particularly difficult matchup problem for the Lady Tigers.
All season long Davis has lamented his team's lack of foot speed, which prohibits the effectiveness of playing man-to-man defense against certain opponents. It is a weakness which plays directly into Charlotte's hands:
The Lady 49ers use a fast-tempo, 3-point bombing, guard-oriented offense under former Duke standout and current head coach Katie Meier. With four guards and a small forward in the starting lineup Charlotte almost certainly will force Clemson into a zone defense, one which will have to guard the transition game as well as the halfcourt.
"We'll have to spread it out a little more to challenge their 3-point shooters," Davis said. "They also love to run transition off a made basket, get the ball up the floor in a hurry and hit someone spotted up outside for a 3-pointer. We've got to find a way to slow them down and force them to work hard for the shots.
"We need this to be a halfcourt-style game."
But getting the tempo in his favor is only one part of Davis' battle.
Clemson must find scoring help for leader Lakeia Stokes (16.8 points), the only Lady Tiger to average in double figures this year. Fellow senior Julie Aderhold's (9.6) perimeter game will be a factor, as will the interior play on both ends of the floor of senior center Maggie Slosser.
"Maggie played so well for us early in the year," Davis said. "But in the second half she's hit a wall or something, and her production has dropped. We've got to get both her and Julie going if we're going to have a chance."
This is Clemson's fourth overall appearance in the Women's NIT, it's first since 1995 - Davis' only other appearance in the tournament as Clemson's head coach. The Lady Tigers are 5-4 all time in the WNIT.
The winner of tonight's game will face either Louisville or Western Michigan, most likely on Saturday. If Clemson wins it will go on the road regardless of the opponent. School administrators only bid to host a first round game.
CLEMSON PROBABLE STARTERS
Cl Hgt. PPG. RPG
F-Lakeia Stokes, SR, 6-0, 16.8, 6.9
F-Maggie Slosser, SR, 6-2, 9.5, 6.0
C-Amanda White, SO, 6-4, 6.5, 4.7
G-Julie Aderhold, SR, 5-11, 9.6, 3.6
G-Kanetra Queen, SO, 5-8, 4.2, 1.8
CHARLOTTE PROBABLE STARTERS
Cl Hgt. PPG. RPG
F-Tiffanie Hoey, SR, 6-1, 5.2, 4.8
F-Andrea Davidson, SO, 5-11, 6.0, 4.5
G-Sakellie Daniels, SO, 5-7, 11.9, 4.3
G-Peaches Harris, SR, 5-9, 11.1, 3.8
G-Monica League, JR, 5-5, 8.6, 2.5