NIT Now Within Reach

CLEMSON – Even though there have been many losses since then, the bitterness of the last-second defeat at Virginia Tech still lingers with each Clemson basketball player. <BR>

And what better way to make that horrible taste disappear than to get a win Tuesday night over the Hokies and qualify for the NIT.

"We've got a bad taste in our mouth from that game in Blacksburg," Tigers freshman forward Sam Perry said. "That kind of turned around their season for them and it kind of put us in a skid. We want this game real bad. It left a bad taste in our mouth."

And while exacting revenge is an important element of the game, becoming eligible for the NIT is first and foremost the big storyline involving Tuesday night's game.

Clemson (14-13, 4-10 ACC) needs one more win in its final two games to qualify for the NIT. Should the Tigers fail to beat Virginia Tech, then they would have to win at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

So, obviously, beating the Hokies in Littlejohn Coliseum seems to be the easier task, which is why that game is of the utmost importance for Clemson.

And considering that the Tigers are 4-3 in the month of February, beating Virginia Tech is a very real possibility.

"It's going to be a big game," said senior forward Sharrod Ford, who is trying to reach the postseason for the first time in his career. "It may be the biggest game of the year and maybe of my career."

The Tigers haven't been to the postseason since 1999, when they made it all the way to the championship game of the NIT, before losing to California by one point.

And the ramifications of making the NIT seems to be lost on some of the freshmen, which in a way can be a good thing if they're not fully aware of how big the pressure is.

"To me as a freshman, I really don't understand everything," forward Cheyenne Moore said. "To Sharrod and Olu (Babalola), I know that it's important to them and that's all I care about.

"We need to get it done for Sharrod and Olu. That's all I really care about."

Tuesday's game will be the last regular season game for seniors Sharrod Ford and Olu Babalola. The Tigers are 25-8 during the last 33 years on senior night.

"It hasn't hit me just yet," said Ford. "But by the time we get ready to go out there I know it will all start becoming more real." Top Stories