Tigers headed to SEC country

CLEMSON - Only two games are left between Clemson and the now 18-game grind that is life in the ACC.

WHAT: Clemson at Auburn
WHERE: Auburn, Ala. - Auburn Arena
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 19 (8 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 6
TV: Fox Sports Net (Dave Neal, Larry Conley)

After playing seven times in November, Brownell scheduled five games for the final month of 2013. Clemson travels to Auburn [4-3] on Thursday night before closing out non-conference play on Dec. 30 with VMI.

There's a reason Brownell wanted to tap the breaks and have his team go almost two full weeks between contests.

"I think that's important for this team, because of our trip to Italy," Brownell said. "We've been going for a long time, since August. And there's a fear of mine that we're going to run out of gas a little bit.

"I think this schedule is set up in mind that we would have a longer Christmas break, three days or two days, like they would normally get."

Ten games into Brownell's fourth season in Tigertown, Clemson [8-2] is off to strong start with wins over South Carolina, Temple and Davidson.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Tigers were No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. They're also fifth in 3-point percentage defense and free-throw accuracy, and eighth in blocks per game.

Though K.J. McDaniels is the only player on the Tigers' roster who averages double-digits in scoring [17.6], Brownell has gotten production out of a number of different players on the offensive end. Rod Hall is second on the team with 9.9 points per game. Jordan Roper averages 8.4, Damarcus Harrison is third with 7.6 and Devin Coleman is fourth with 6.0.

They'll take on an Auburn team that has wins over schools with State in their name: Nicholls, Jacksonville, Murray and Tennessee. Two of their losses are to State teams: Northwestern and Iowa.

Senior guard Chris Denson leads those Tigers in scoring with 19.9. Junior guard K.T. Harrell, a Virginia transfer, is second with 18.4.

After facing those guys, McDaniels, Hall & Co., will go their separate ways for a 6-day Christmas break.

"The guys get to go home and decompress a little. We'll encourage them to get in the gym a couple of times and get some shots up, do something physically once or twice," Brownell said.

Like any coach, Brownell is a little wary about sending his team home for that long. "When we get back, we'll just have to try to get our mind right, play well against VMI and try to get on with it," he said.

Auburn, 4-3
G #13 Tahj Shamsid-Deen - 9.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG (5-10, 163)
G #3 Chris Denson - 19.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG (6-2, 181)
G #1 K.T. Harrell - 18.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG (6-4, 216)
F #25 Jordan Granger - 1.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG (6-8, 200)
C #31 Benas Griciunas - 2.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG (7-0, 225)

Clemson, 8-2
G #12 Rod Hall - 9.1 PPG, 3.3 APG (6-1, 210)
G #20 Jordan Roper - 8.4 PPG, 2.2 RPG (5-11, 165)
F #32 K.J. McDaniels - 17.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG (6-6, 200)
F #42 Ibrahim Djambo - 2.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG (6-10, 215)
C #35 Landry Nnoko - 4.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG (6-10, 250)

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