Tigers Travel West

It may not be the most prestigious of tournaments, but what the Clemson basketball team does this week in Hawaii will go a long way toward determining what sort of postseason life, if any, the Tigers will have this season. <br><br> <center><a href=http://mb.scout.com/bclemson.communityChat>Premium Chat</a>!</center><BR>

Clemson enters Tuesday's 10 p.m. tip-off against Alabama-Birmingham in the opening round of three in the Rainbow Classic with a 7-1 record. And should the Tigers sweep all three of their games and come home with a tournament championship, they will need just five more wins the rest of the way to qualify for the NIT.

But with games against Georgia and East Carolina remaining, as well as two each against Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida State, the Tigers are likely eyeing a bigger prize.

However, it all starts against UAB.

"It's going to be a great tournament," Clemson forward Sharrod Ford said. "We're going out there for business and not fun."

Regardless of what happens Tuesday night, Clemson will play three games in the tournament and expects to leave with at least two wins.

Should the Tigers beat UAB, they will play 10 p.m., Wednesday, against the winner between Indiana State and Southern California. Should Clemson lose, it will play at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, against the loser of the ISU-USC game.

Other teams in the tournament include Hawaii, which has won the tournament three straight years, Georgetown, Oral Roberts and Long Beach State.

"I think (the competition) is very good," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "Obviously opening with UAB, a team that has proved its mettle over last two years.… They beat Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, so that's who you start with.

"Then you've got some other programs over there, Hawaii for example. Hawaii in Hawaii is awfully tough. You've got Southern Cal, you've got Georgetown. So you've got some quality programs over there with tradition and you've got some teams over there a lot of people don't know about that are also good. So the competition level is very good."

Official Game Notes
* Clemson was ranked 18th in Collegerpi.com and 19th by Sagarin through games of December 19.

* Clemson has won five consecutive games heading into the Rainbow Classic, the longest winning streak since a nine-game streak to open 2002-03.

* Clemson led the nation in steals per game in the December 13 stats and now has a 13.1 figure. That is on pace for a Clemson single season record. The school record for steals in a season on a per game basis is 10.89 in 1976-77, so this year's squad is a head of the record pace.

* Clemson has had double figures in steals in five of the first eight games, including a school record 25 in the opener against Hampton. Clemson has forced 22.3 turnovers per game through the first eight games this year.

* Clemson will be attempting to win its first regular season tournament since the 1990-91 season when the Tigers won the Florida International Tournament in Miami. Clemson has failed to win its last eight regular season tournaments. Clemson has won 22 regular season tournaments in its history.

* Clemson's only eight-team regular season tournament title took place at the 1980 Rainbow Classic. The Tigers defeated Louisiana Tech, Indiana and Hawaii to win the tournament that year. Clemson's starting center on that team was future NBA All-Star.

* Clemson is 7-0 this year when it out-rebounds the opposition and 0-1 when it is the loser in the rebound margin stat.

* Clemson has met UAB just once over the years, a 65-64 loss at UAB in the 1993 NIT second round. Sharone Wright led the Tigers in that game with 18 points and 16 rebounds.

* Freshman Cliff Hammonds is third on the Clemson team in scoring with an 11.0 average. He is also shooting nearly 40 percent on three-point shots and 54 percent overall. He is already a two-time ACC Rookie of the Week selection, the first Clemson freshman to be honored twice since Vincent Whitt in 1996-97.

* The last time Oliver Purnell took a team to Hawaii he came back with wins over #12 UCONN and #6 Maryland. That took place at the 2000 Maui Invitational when he was the head coach at Dayton.

* Sharrod Ford has scored 38 points over the last two games and has made 13 of his last 21 field goals. Ford is ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in field goal percentage, rebounds and blocked shots.

* Clemson outscored The Citadel 25-9 in terms of points off turnovers in its most recent game. Clemson has won that stat in seven of the first eight games and has a 205-98 advantage in 2004-05.


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