Clemson's Ready For Texas A&M

CLEMSON – While Clemson basketball team has lost more than twice as many times away from Littlejohn Coliseum than it won, that's exactly where the Tigers have played some of their best games. <br>

And that's a good thing considering Clemson's first-round opponent in the NIT is at Texas A&M, a team that is 16-2 at home and 19-9 overall. The Aggies also finished 8-8 in the Big 12 conference, which is why head coach Billy Gillispie was named the conference's coach of the year.

While most in these parts know very little about task facing the Tigers, Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell fully understands.

"They're a pressure team," he said. "They like man-to-man, full-court (defense) and they'll trap you anytime, anywhere. It's a quality team. So, we obviously have our work cut out for us with the huge disadvantage of having to travel there and play. …

"Obviously a home game would have been nice, but it wasn't in the cards for whatever reason and that makes it tougher than it could be. I would have liked to seen a home game for our fans."

The winner of Wednesday's 8:30 p.m. game will play DePaul (20-10), which won at Missouri (16-17) Tuesday night. The site of the second-round game hadn't been determined Tuesday night.

But first things first, in order to get the chance to play DePaul, the Tigers have to take care of business in College Station, Tx.

The Aggies are led by Antoine Wright, who is averaging 18.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and was named first-team All-Big 12. There's also sophomore guard Acie Law, IV, who is scoring 12.7 points and handing out 5.1 assists per game.

If that weren't enough, Texas A&M also has one of the top-rated freshman in the country in 6-foot-9, 260-pound center Joseph Jones, who scoring 12.4 points and grabbing 7.2 rebounds per game and is ranked as the best freshman center in the land by CBS SportsLine.com.

Here are a few more notes of interest with the Aggies:

* Texas A&M is the only team in the country to rank in the top 16 nationally in both field goal percentage (14th, .488) and field goal percentage defense (16th, .394).

* The Aggies have won 12 more games than it won last season, tying it with New Mexico and San Diego for the biggest improvement in the country this season.

*Texas A&M ranks third in the Big 12 and 17th nationally in three-point percentage (.393), a school record.

*The Aggies are 13-0 when the opposition scores 64 points or less and is 17-1 when their opponents make less than 45.8 percent from the field.

Yes, it's a difficult game for Clemson, but Purnell is going to make sure the moment at hand isn't going to be lost on his young team.

"The best thing we can do now is try to get to New York (for the semifinals)," he said. "I think an NIT championship would be something that everybody involved in this program would be proud of, particularly the players.

"My biggest assignment right now is to make sure they understand that. Sometimes young people don't think about what something could mean until it's pointed out to them. I think I've got to educate them on the history of Madison Square Garden and the NIT tournament. That's the Mecca and at some point, everybody in their basketball career would love to play there. And I don't think anybody here has played there."

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