WHAT: No. 15 N.C. State vs. Clemson
WHEN: 1:30 p.m., Sunday
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum
The Tigers sport a 14-5 record overall and a 3-3 mark in the ACC. Should Clemson manage to split its next 10 league games and finish with 19 wins and an 8-8 conference record, it will be very difficult to keep the Tigers out of the NCAA Tournament.
And those final games starts Sunday afternoon with a home game against No. 15 N.C. State.
A win against the Wolfpack (15-4, 4-2) would go a long way toward helping Clemson reach it's goal of making the Big Dance.
"You can rest assured they will not be taking anything for granted on Sunday," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "We'll see N.C. State at their best. This is a team that is very balanced, which makes it difficult to key on one guy."
All five of N.C. State's starters are right at averaging at least 10 points a game. That's not a very common aspect in collegiate basketball. Usually two or three players dominate the scoring.
What makes the Wolfpack difficult to play is of course their Princeton-style offense, which incorporates three-point shooting and backdoor cuts to the hoop.
But the biggest change for them this season is the emergence of center Cedric Simmons, a 6-foot-9 sophomore that's averaging nearly 13 points and seven rebounds a game.
A defense can either focus to stop Simmons, which may leave the deadly outside shooters open, or it can opt to play him one-on-one, which he has thrived at this year.
"One thing that is different for them from years past is that they've established Cedric Simmons as a bona fide, low post presence," Purnell said. "It does give them an added dimension. You pick your poison."
Playing in Clemson's favor is the fact that it is brimming with confidence after winning at Georgia Tech a week ago.
"I've long said that if you can stay out of a lot of losing streaks and take care of your home court and steal a couple on the road, then you're going to be successful," Purnell said. "You look around this year and the teams that have struggled have gotten into losing streaks and it's hard to get out of a rut. It's obviously hard to have your confidence soaring when you're in a losing streak. To not only win after losing to Miami, but to win on the road helps us confidence wise when we go on the road in the future."
What has impressed Purnell the most is that the Tigers have been able to do this without the services of their best defensive player and rebounder in forward James Mays, who was suspended from the team and school for the spring semester due to academic issues.
"I think that it's a team that's fighting through it," Purnell said. "As a coach, that warms your heart when your group is just battling. And one of the things that it's difficult to do when you're battling through things is to not become frustrated. And our ability to battle through the game all the way and not get frustrated, I think is the key."
N.C. State (15-4 overall, 4-2 ACC)
G 22 Tony Bethel (6-1, 185) 9.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg
G 14 Engin Atsur (6-4, 200) 11.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
C 33 Cedric Simmons (6-9, 233) 12.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg
F 3 Ilian Evtimov (6-8, 222) 10.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg
F 13 Cameron Bennerman (6-4, 205) 12.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg
Clemson (14-5 overall, 3-3 ACC)
G 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 13.1 ppg, 3.2 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 9.0 ppg, 3.1 apg
C 33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 240) 9.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208) 6.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg
F 12 Julius Powell (6-9, 205) 1.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg
Previewing N.C. State
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