Time Off Helps Tigers

It may actually be a blessing in disguise that the Clemson basketball team has had the last eight days off after finally grabbing a win.

WHAT: Clemson vs. Wake Forest
WHEN: 7 p.m., Wednesday
WHERE: Joel Coliseum
TV: None

Teams generally like to keep the momentum going, but in this case, taking a week off might be the best thing.

The layoff has allowed more healing to point guard Vernon Hamilton, who sprained his wrist and chipped a bone in his left elbow during the second half in the Boston College game.

Hamilton, who is Clemson's leading scorer, missed the Maryland game, which was won by the Tigers thanks to guard Shawan Robinson, and is questionable for Wednesday night's game at Wake Forest.

"One of our best players is out and has an opportunity to be back because of this eight day break," said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. "So because of this break, we have a possibility of him missing only one game, so as it turned out, it worked out well for us."

While Hamilton has been on the mend during the last week, Purnell has been doing his best to ensure the Tigers stay positive and on top of their game.

"We've been getting really close, but not getting the prize," Purnell said. "So (beating Maryland) did loads for our confidence, I believe. So we go through a tough deal where we try to keep our guys sharp and prepare for Wake."

The Tigers (15-10, 4-8 ACC) put together an incredible comeback to beat Wake Forest (13-13, 1-11 ACC) in overtime earlier in the year, but that was in Clemson. This game is on the road, which generally hasn't boded well for the Tigers.

"Wake is obviously a dangerous team," Purnell said. "They've gone through some tough times and lost a lot of close ball games, but it's obvious that when you look at them … they're certainly capable of putting together an outstanding game as a team. Anytime you go on the road, it's going to be tough. It's a game we need and it's a game they need."

It's definitely a game Clemson needs to keep aspirations of reaching the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the Tigers have to win out without question and probably need to win at least one game in the ACC Tournament as well.

Both of those scenarios are realistic, but not easy. And if they are to do so, they need center Akin Akingbala to continue his stellar play. Over his last four games, the senior is averaging nearly 16 points and 11 rebounds.

"Akin has had a very, very solid year for us and obviously you want that from your senior players," Purnell said. "But he's given us a tremendous post presence and he's been a guy that can match up with any big guy in the league. The last four games, he's been outstanding and obviously we hope that play continues because it could be very helpful to us down the stretch."

Clemson (15-10 overall, 4-8 ACC)
PG 22 Shawan Robinson (6-2, 180) 11.6 ppg, 2.8 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 9.3 ppg, 3.2 apg
C 33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 240) 11.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg
F 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 210) 7.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg
F 12 Raymond Sykes (6-9, 208) 1.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg

Wake Forest (13-13 overall, 1-11 ACC)
PG 1 Justin Gray (6-2, 194) 19.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg
G 33 Trent Strickland (6-5, 216) 12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg
C 31 Eric Williams (6-9, 280) 16.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg
F 34 Michael Drum (6-6, 204) 5.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg
F 23 Kevin Swinton (6-7, 224) 2.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg

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