Tigers look to ride defense on road

Clemson's defense has been outstanding over its last two games, allowing just 94 total points in decisive victories against N.C. State and Florida State.

Now the Tigers need to expand their defensive prowess on the road.

Clemson has allowed just 57 points per game in building a 4-0 ACC record at home, but the Tigers have allowed an average of 76.3 points in their 0-3 start in league road games.

"We haven't gone on the road and won a game yet," first-year coach Brad Brownell said. "We've done what we've needed to do (at home), but we're a long way from being significant."

If the Tigers hope to emerge as a significant player in the ACC race, they'll have to continue to embrace the defense-first philosophy preached by Brownell. The players seem to have adapted to that over the course of the season and to a player now seem to realize that their success hinges on such an approach.

"We've seen that Coach Brownell's way of doing things really works," junior guard Andre Young said. "We're starting to take pride in keeping guys from scoring. Offense isn't at the front of our minds anymore."

Now all that's left is for the Tigers to use that defensive mindset to help steal a win or two on the ACC road.

"We play well at home -- very high-spirited," Young said. "The next step is for us to provide our own spirit and support and take it on the road."

Tanner Smith (sprained MCL) expects an increased role when the Tigers take to the court Tuesday night at Virginia. (AP)
* Clemson's win over Florida State on Jan. 29 made first-year coach Brad Brownell the first coach in school history to win four of his first seven league games. Now another first could be in the offing -- no Clemson coach has won more than five ACC games in his first season.

* Clemson posted a 5-2 record in January, marking just the second time since 1996 that the Tigers had a winning record in the month. January has historically been a difficult month for Clemson, as the Tigers have an all-time record of 313-444 (41.3 percent) in the month.

* One of the reasons for Clemson's winning record in ACC play through Jan. 29 has been the Tigers' success at the free throw line. Clemson made 99 of 128 free throws in seven ACC games -- a success rate of 77.3 percent.

BY THE NUMBERS: 44 -- Points allowed by Clemson in the Tigers' victory over No. 22 Florida State on Jan. 29. It was the fewest points allowed by Clemson against an ACC opponent since Jan. 27, 2000.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is what we're supposed to do. Maybe a lot of people around the country or in the stands were surprised, but we weren't surprised. We knew we could beat these guys." -- Clemson senior guard Demontez Stitt after the Tigers' 62-44 victory over No. 22 Florida State on Jan. 29.

Expect Clemson to attack the Cavaliers inside early and often. When Virginia lost 6-foot-8 power forward Mike Scott for the season, it lost the bulk of its scoring and rebounding, and the Tigers will try to capitalize on the Cavs' shortcomings with 6-8 big men Jerai Grant and Devin Booker, both of whom are enjoying their best seasons.

Clemson won't take Virginia lightly, however, particularly in Charlottesville, Va. -- Clemson is winless (0-3) on the ACC road this season and has won just twice in its last 11 visits to Virginia.

FUTURES MARKET: Clemson will need defensive-minded junior guard Tanner Smith down the season's homestretch. Smith, who suffered a sprained MCL on Jan. 18, returned to action for the first time Jan. 29 against Florida State. Wearing a bulky brace on his right knee, Smith played 11 minutes and scored seven points against the Seminoles, then pronounced himself ready for an increased role in upcoming games at Virginia and Georgia Tech.

"It's a little sore, but I'll have ice on it tonight and get treatment a couple of times and be ready to practice on Monday," Smith said. "I think I passed the first test, especially guarding guys like (Florida State's Chris) Singleton out there. I've got to be ready to do."

CUTigers.com Top Stories