Postseason on the Line

After 25 games, it's come to this: If Clemson wants to qualify for the NIT it has to win three of its remaining four games and at least one of its two remaining road games. <BR>

And the first of the two away games is Tuesday night at Maryland, which is one of the two ACC teams the Tigers have beaten.

"I think we're always confident that we can win games," senior center Sharrod Ford said. "The games are winnable, we just have to come out and play our smart and our best."

The fact that Clemson (12-13, 2-10 ACC) is even fighting for its postseason life is somewhat shocking to some, especially after considering the Tigers were picked to finish ahead of Miami and Virginia Tech, two teams that have 13 wins in the ACC between them.

"It's tough to see they're doing so well and we're doing so bad," Ford said. "It's certainly kind of surprising."

But then again, maybe it shouldn't be.

In ACC games, the Tigers are dead last in scoring per game (65.8), free throw percentage (59.7), field goal percentage (40.4) and field goal percentage defense (50.4).

Most realized scoring for Clemson would be hard to come by, but it's the poor defense displayed by the Tigers that is truly surprising. Even before the season began, it was expected that the defense would carry Clemson.

Obviously, it hasn't.

"I'm thinking guys are having guarding guys one-on-one," Ford said. "We're having problems keeping their guys in front of them."

Tigers head coach Oliver Purnell believes the defensive problems don't fall on just one aspect.

"(Ford's belief) is part of it," Purnell said. "Guarding at the point of attack has been a problem for us. But I really think it's (overall) consistency."

A win at Maryland (16-8, 7-6 ACC), however, would go a long way toward forgetting about all the past problems on offense and defense. And getting a win is doable.

"It's going to be a difficult task, but it would be for any ACC team," Purnell said. "We're coming off of one of our worst games of the year, but this group has been resilient in terms of bouncing back."


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