New Life

CLEMSON – Just when it looked as though the Clemson basketball team was about to be left for dead, along comes a three-game winning streak and a 5-3 record since Feb. 1, and a probable berth into the NIT. <BR>

"I think we just clicked on at one point," said freshman forward Cheyenne Moore. "Everyone was tired of losing. I think everybody is starting to believe in each other and we can go as far as we want to go."

That togetherness will be tested in earnest when the Tigers (15-13, 5-10 ACC) travel to take on Georgia Tech (16-10, 7-8 ACC), a team that is fighting for its NCAA Tournament life.

Making matters even more difficult is that fact that Saturday's 1:30 p.m. game is also Senior Day for the Yellow Jackets.

But should Clemson keep rolling and get the win, it was give the Tigers six conference wins for the first time since the 1997-98 season, as well as 16 wins overall, which would be the largest victory improvement from on year to the next since the 1986-87 team had a six-game improvement.

However, asking a team to win under the previous mentioned circumstances as well as coming off such an emotional high after getting the last-second win over Virginia Tech Tuesday night is an awful lot.

"(Getting over Virginia Tech) is something that must be done," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "We put a North Carolina loss at North Carolina aside and we've got to do the same thing with Georgia Tech. If we don't, it's going to be a sad story. If you're still living three or four days ago, you've got no shot."

There is no one single reason for the dramatic turnaround, instead several little things that have added up to success.

One of the first things to get Clemson rolling in the right direction was the starting lineup adjustment Purnell made after a bad loss at home to N.C. State. The very next game, Purnell inserted freshmen forwards Sam Perry and James Mays, which gave the team the energy and boost it had been lacking.

"That was a huge catalyst," Purnell said. "But I wouldn't pinpoint it to just that. But that was jumpstart and a shakeup that really helped us."

Then there is the improved play defensively. The Tigers are the only team in the nation that rank in the top 20 in blocked shots (19) and steals (12).

The decent outside shooting of guard Shawan Robinson returned and the turnovers by point guard Vernon Hamilton went way down.

But of course one of the major reasons why the Tigers have turned things around is the play of senior forward Sharrod Ford, who is averaging 21 points on 63 percent shooting from the field and 11.7 rebounds over his last three games.

He'll need a similar numbers if Clemson is to win Saturday.


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