La. Tech Offers Tigers Big Challenge

CLEMSON – There has been a natural progression with the Clemson basketball program since Oliver Purnell took over as head coach three years ago and doing well in Wednesday's NIT game against Louisiana Tech is part of that process.

WHAT: Louisiana Tech vs. Clemson
WHEN: 7 p.m., Wednesday
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000)
TV: None

"We wanted to get to the NCAA and since we didn't and we're in the NIT and we need to advance," Purnell said. "By every measure you can think of, we've advanced our program this year in ACC wins and total wins. It would be a natural progression to move forward in this tournament.

"We're in it to win it."

But as Purnell later pointed out, in order to get to New York City for the semifinals, it all starts with Louisiana Tech, a team that sports a player with some of the gaudiest numbers in all of college basketball.

Center Paul Millsap, who leads the nation in rebounding at 13.4 per game, is the Bulldogs' only player averaging double figures in scoring at 19.7 per game. Nobody else on the team comes close to hitting double digits.

Louisiana Tech has one of the oddest stat lines you'll find for a team with a winning record.

Corey Dean and Marcus Elliott are the closest at 7.8 points and 7.0 points per game respectively. The reason it is so odd is because when teams double-team Millsap, it should create plenty of scoring opportunities for his teammates.

And for none of them to come close to 10 points per game would suggest they're not producing when called upon, yet the team is still 20-12 overall.

As a result, look for the Tigers to put at least two players on Millsap if he starts hurting them, which is something Clemson hasn't done a lot of this year.

"It's going to be a challenge for post players," Tigers senior center Akin Akingbala said. "(Millsap) is very versatile. We just have to stay tough."

The reason Clemson might do a lot of double-teaming is because the Bulldogs are horrendous from beyond the three-point line. The Tigers are bad at 32.3 percent, but La. Tech is downright horrific at 28.4 percent, which ranks at the bottom out of 326 Division I teams. Clemson ranks at 251.

Other areas that should help the Tigers advance is that La. Tech is nearly as bad at shooting free throws as the Tigers are. The Bulldogs make just 63.4 percent from the line, while Clemson converts on 61.6 percent.

However, where the Bulldogs excel is on defense. They yield just 62.9 points per game and opponents shoot only 40.5 percent from the field, both of which rank in the top 50 nationally.

"They're athletic and they give tremendous effort," Purnell said. "You'll see a very athletic team out there. They really get out in the lanes and pressure man-to-man. When they go to the zone, … they're moving. They'll turn you over and they convert on them."

They're also one of the best around when it comes to rebounding. A good measuring stick will be if Clemson is struggling from the field to see how many points it gets off of offensive rebounds.

If the Tigers do well in that area, it will likely result in a win.

Another aspect in Clemson's favor is that the game is at Littlejohn Coliseum. Purnell sent out an email to the entire student body Tuesday asking for their support.

He's hoping for a good showing, which has been the case far too little.

"I really don't know what to expect," he said. "We obviously want a tremendous atmosphere and want a tremendous home-court advantage in terms of number of people here, but we can't depend on that. We've got to be motivated internally. …

"(The crowd) is kind of like our team and our program, it's not where I want it to be, but it's getting there."

Louisiana Tech (20-12 overall, 11-5 WAC)
G 11 Daevon Haskins (6-3, 170) 5.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G 15 Marcus Elliott (6-3, 180) 7.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg
C 24 Paul Millsap (6-8, 245) 19.7 ppg, 13.4 rpg
F 1 Chad McKenzie (6-7, 210) 5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg
F 23 Corey Dean (6-4, 200) 7.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg

Clemson (18-12 overall, 7-9 ACC)
G 22 Shawan Robinson (6-2, 180) 12.4 ppg, 2.8 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 9.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg
C 33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 240) 11.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg
F 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 210) 7.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg
F 42 Julius Powell (6-7, 208) 5.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg Top Stories