Looking to Rebound

CLEMSON – To say it's been a tough two weeks for the Clemson basketball team would be an understatement. Even so, the No. 21 Tigers are still confident in their ability to win games and believe they're still headed to the NCAA Tournament despite the recent setbacks.

What: No. 21 Clemson (18-4, 4-4 ACC) at Georgia Tech (13-8, 2-7 ACC)
Where: Alexander Memorial Coliseum
When: 1 p.m., Saturday
TV: Raycom/Lincoln Financial

Clemson won its first 17 games, but have since gone 1-4, which include extremely close and heartbreaking losses to Duke and Virginia. And as the team heads to Georgia Tech Saturday, not stressing about the past and looking at the rest of the season is a major key.

"I would feel a sense of urgency no matter where we were at this point," head coach Oliver Purnell said. "We've had a tendency to finish strong. We certainly want to do that again. The way to do that is to get players to feel that sense of urgency."

Starting junior forward Sam Perry says despite the recent hardships that the team is focused and ready for action. He adds that the players are wallowing in self pity.

"It's obviously discouraging to lose four out of our last five," Perry said. "But it's easy to stay positive when we're 18-4 and 4-4 in the ACC and we haven't even played our best yet."

During Clemson's recent slump, rebounding has become an issue. The Tigers haven't been able to keep the opposition off the offensive glass. That has been a main focal point for Purnell in practice the last week.

"He's challenging us to box out more," Perry said. "The last week, all he's said is rebound and block out. That's the most I've heard those words in my life."

Purnell said when the Tigers are playing at their best, getting offensive and defensive rebounds are the main reasons why.

"It's attributable to us not paying enough attention to blocking out," Purnell said. "And teams we're playing against. If don't put a body on them, they're going make you pay."

Despite Georgia Tech's poor conference record, it is loaded with talent and it's just a matter of time before the Yellow Jackets break out of their funk, too.

"Teams are turning it up," Purnell said. "And we needed to be doing that as well. Georgia Tech is a team that has tremendous young talent, size. They have just got a lot of good players, but they haven't put it together the way they wanted to. But they have shown, particularly on their home court, they're a formidable force."

Last year, the Tigers got the big win at Georgia Tech behind the shooting of Julius Powell, who drained four 3-pointers. However, through eight conference games this season, he has yet to make a basket.

"His knee has been bothering him, and we're probably going to sit him out tomorrow and the next game with the idea of really resting that knee," Purnell said. "He hasn't practiced since the Virginia game because of the scraping action in the knee. It's bone on bone.

"He's had it all year long, but it has gotten progressively worse. The pain has gotten worse, and you can't play well when you can't practice."

And practicing hard the last week is something Clemson has done to try and right the ship.

"Last couple days in practice we've gotten progressively better and played with more energy," Purnell said. "Hopefully it will spill out onto the court (Saturday).

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
No. 21 Clemson (18-4, 4-4 ACC)
G 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 12.4 ppg, 3.8 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 10.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg
C 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 215) 9.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208) 5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg
F 40 James Mays (6-9, 222) 13.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg

Georgia Tech (13-8, 2-6 ACC)
G 1 Javaris Crittenton (6-5, 198) 13.0 ppg, 5.8 apg
F 33 Thaddeus Young (6-8, 217) 14.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg
C 4 Ra'Sean Dickey (6-10, 250) 8.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg
F 11 Mouhammead Faye (6-10, 208) 5.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
F 32 Jeremis Smith (6-6, 232) 8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg

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