Tigers ready to begin NIT play

CLEMSON - Damarcus Harrison was a freshman at BYU the last time he made an appearance in a postseason basketball tournament.

WHAT: Clemson vs. Georgia State
WHERE: Clemson, S.C. - Littlejohn Coliseum
WHEN: Tuesday, March 18 (9 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson -6.5
TV: ESPNU (Tom Hart, Bob Valvano)

Heading into Tuesday night's first-round NIT game against Georgia State, there is no other player on Clemson's roster with postseason experience.

In 2012, Harrison came off the bench to score 12 points in BYU's 25-point comeback win over Iona in first-round play of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

The message he learned from the veterans on that BYU team has already been passed along to his current teammates.

"We've got to focus on the here and now and that's a first-round game against Georgia State," Harrison said. "That's the big thing. If we want to advance, we've got to take everything serious and as hard as we can."

That means no looking ahead to The Big Apple. Three games stand between Clemson's first trip to Madison Square Garden since the 2007 NIT title game.

Up first is a 25-8 Georgia State team that went 17-1 in Sun Belt play. The Panthers earned a bid to the NIT after winning the regular season. Their NCAA Tournament bid was lost when UL-Lafayette beat them in overtime of the league title game.

Georgia State's lone senior starter, forward Manny Atkins, a Virginia Tech transfer, averages 14.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

Three other starters average double-digits in scoring: N.C. State/Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow [17.9], Devonta White [11.5] and R.J. Hunter [18.4], the son of head coach Ron Hunter.

"This is not your typical mid-major talent-wise team," Brad Brownell said. "They've got some highly talented, highly skilled basketball players. They're highly skilled. They don't turn the ball over much. They shoot it well."

The Panthers are 37th in the country in field goal percentage [47.3], 29th in points per game [78] and third in fewest turnovers [270].

"They play all zone: 2-3, 3-2, 1-3-1. They press some. They change the way their zone is all the time. It's a different style," Brownell said. "It certainly is a little bit like Miami, though Miami will play some man-to-man within the game, they almost don't play any. Generally, it's almost 40 minutes of zone."

If Clemson finds away to beat that zone, it will face the winner of the 2nd-seeded Illinois and 7th-seeded Boston University. The 3rd-seeded Tigers would have another home game with a win since the Illini's home floor is under renovation.

"Everybody is still excited to get the NIT bid," Jaron Blossomgame said. "One of our goals was to play in March and still get an opportunity to play.

"Every team wants to be in the NCAA Tournament, but this year wasn't our year. We fought hard in some games, but we lost some games, and I think that hurt us getting into the tournament, but everybody is still excited to be playing right now."

PROBABLE STARTERS
Georgia State, 25-8 (17-1 Sun Belt)
G #55 Ryan Harrow- 17.9 PPG, 4.3 APG (6-2, 170)
G #12 Devonta White - 11.5 PPG, 4.4 APG (6-4 205)
F #22 R.J. Hunter - 18.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG (6-8, 185)
F #23 Manny Atkins - 14.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG (6-6, 205)
F#42 Curtis Washington - 7.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG (6-9, 240)

Clemson, 20-12 (10-8 ACC)
G #12 Rod Hall - 9.8 PPG, 3.9 APG (6-1, 210)
G #21 Damarcus Harrison - 7.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG (5-11, 165)
F #32 K.J. McDaniels - 17.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG (6-6, 200)
F #5 Jaron Blossomgame - 5.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG (6-7, 215)
C #35 Landry Nnoko - 6.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG (6-10, 250)

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