Something to Prove?

CLEMSON – While many outsiders are starting to think that the Clemson basketball team is pretty good, there are still plenty of pessimists that believe the Tigers are at the beginning of a free fall after suffering their first loss of the season Saturday.

No. 4 North Carolina (15-2, 2-1 ACC) at No. 16 Clemson (17-1, 3-1 ACC)
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday
Odds: UNC by 4

Game Notes

But players for the No. 16 Tigers are here to tell you that those doom-and-gloom thoughts couldn't be further from the truth. And they'll have a chance to prove that in spades when they face No. 4 North Carolina Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

"In my mind, there's still probably some people that doubt us," Clemson guard K.C. Rivers said. "But I don't think we have to prove anything."

The Tigers (17-1, 3-1 ACC) will be facing a North Carolina team that is coming off a loss at Virginia Tech. And those naysayers believe Clemson is in for a rough night because the Tar Heels (15-2, 2-1 ACC) are going to be angry.

But Tigers forward James Mays likes to point out that his teammates and he aren't exactly thrilled following their loss at Maryland.

"I really don't care (that they lost)," he said. "They're going to lose when they play us, too. … At least I hope so."

The attitude of the players, besides overall talent, is probably the biggest difference between this Clemson squad and teams of the past. They aren't afraid of anyone and believe they should win every single time they step on the court.

They're not cocky, they're confident.

"We've got a pretty good basketball team when we play like we do," head coach Oliver Purnell said. "If this were last year's team, we'd be looking to change blueprints (on how to beat North Carolina). But by and large, you're going to see us play the way we play."

The way Clemson plays is by producing a solid defense that likes to trap, create turnovers and rarely gives up an offensive rebound. The Tigers failed to do much of that against the Terrapins.

"We just need to get back to our roots with defense, with rebounding being our watch-word," Purnell said. "Rather than expect (North Carolina) to be cold, we have to guard them and make them be cold."

One major potential problem for the Tigers is the health of Rivers, who many consider to be the best sixth-man in the country.

For the past week, the lower back of Rivers has been causing him problems. He had to deal with spasms, which kept him from being effecting during the second half against Maryland. He had 16 points in the first half and only two after intermission.

Losing any production from him would be a serious blow. Rivers leads the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game despite coming off the bench.

"It's a little bit of a concern because it kept tightening up (against Maryland)," Purnell said. "He just can't move as well."

However, both Rivers and Purnell fully expect him to play.

No. 4 North Carolina (15-2, 2-1 ACC)
G 5 Ty Lawson (5-11, 200) 9.2 ppg, 5.2 apg
G 2 Wayne Ellington (6-4, 195) 12.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg
C 50 Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 245) 18.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg
F 34 Brandon Wright (6-9, 200) 15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg
F 3 Reyshawn Terry (6-8, 235) 8.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg

No. 16 Clemson (17-1, 3-1 ACC)
G 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 11.8 ppg, 3.9 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 10.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg
C 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 215) 10.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208) 5.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg
F 40 James Mays (6-9, 222) 13.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg Top Stories