Tigers Face Pesky Cavs

CLEMSON – With a difficult loss Thursday night still somewhat stinging, members of the Clemson basketball team realizes what transpires Sunday could easily set the tone for the team's success or failures for the rest of the season.

What: Virginia (12-6, 4-2 ACC) at No. 17 Clemson (18-3, 4-3 ACC)
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
When: 1 p.m., Sunday
TV: Raycom/Lincoln Financial

Should the Tigers manage to beat Virginia Sunday afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum, it could have double the implications.

First off, it would put Clemson at 5-3 in the ACC at the halfway point and a trip to the NCAA Tournament a virtual lock, minus a complete meltdown.

Also, it would give the Tigers the tiebreaker over the Cavaliers, who like Clemson are fighting to be in the upper half of the league, since this is the only meeting between the two teams.

"A win is going to be huge for us," Clemson point guard Vernon Hamilton said. "When you play a team only once, you definitely need a win."

However, a loss could be devastating for the Tigers.

A defeat would mean a loss in four of their last five outings and there's no doubt the team's psyche would take a major hit.

But to help avoid the Duke hangover, Clemson coach Oliver Purnell met with the team for about 10 minutes before Friday's practice to specifically address the importance of letting Thursday night go and concentrating on Virginia.

"It was our fault (we lost to Duke)," Tigers guard Cliff Hammonds said. "We had opportunities to win but we didn't do the things we needed to."

Not having the feeling that they were robbed of a victory is a positive. That way it doesn't fester inside and constantly gnaw at them.

However, the Tigers are going to have to do more than just forget about Thursday's game to win Sunday. Virginia has one of the top backcourts in the country and when J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary are on, they are almost nearly impossible to guard.

"You have to be ready to guard them at all times," Hamilton said. "You never know when or where they're going to shoot."

Singletary, a junior, is averaging 19.4 points per game and Reynolds, a senior, is averaging 18.2 points per game.

The two guards have no conscious. They will pull up for a jump shot from anywhere on their side of the court.

They live and die by the jump shot and that was never more evident than their trip earlier this season to Puerto Rico, where the Cavaliers lost by 11 to Appalachian State, which in turn lost to Clemson by 30.

After losing to the Mountaineers, Virginia lost the next day by 24 points to Utah.

On the flip side, the Cavaliers have beaten a ranked Arizona team, Gonzaga and Maryland.

"They're the type of team that can beat any top 25 team in the country," Hamilton said. "And when they don't play and shoot well, they can struggle against anybody."

Making the game even more interesting is the fact that Hamilton and Reynolds are truly best friends. They speak to each other about every other day. In fact, Reynolds spent about a week at Hamilton's house this summer and Hamilton used to date a cousin of Reynolds.

Regardless, there's likely going to be just a little bit of that Duke game lingering somewhere in the back of their minds. They know they're going to get one more shot at the Blue Devils.

"That's the best part about it," Hamilton said. "They have to come back here."

And that could be a monster of game, especially if the Tigers take care of business Sunday.

Virginia (12-6, 4-2 ACC)
G 44 Sean Singletary (6-0, 185) 19.4 ppg, 5.2 apg
G 2 J.R. Reynolds (6-2, 188) 18.2 ppg, 4.1 apg
C 11 Laurynas Mikalaukas (6-8, 255) 4.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg
F 24 Mamadi Diane (6-5, 197) 11.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg
F 33 Jason Cain (6-10, 225) 7.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg

No. 17 Clemson (18-3, 4-3 ACC)
G 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 12.2 ppg, 3.8 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 10.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg
C 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 215) 9.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208) 5.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg
F 40 James Mays (6-9, 222) 13.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg

CUTigers.com Top Stories