Tigers to Face Improved Gamecocks

CLEMSON – The Clemson basketball team survived its initial game without forward James Mays, but the Tigers say it will be difficult to do it Saturday against instate rival South Carolina.

What: South Carolina (4-3) at No. 18 Clemson (6-0)
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
When: 4 p.m., Saturday
TV: Fox Sports Net South

The good news is that the senior Mays (14.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg) did not fracture his hip as first feared and believed. His tentative return is slated in three weeks, when the team heads to Puerto Rico for a three-day Christmas Tournament.

"It's definitely good news," Mays said. "It's very uplifting for me."

That's all well and good for then, but the No. 18 Tigers (6-0) have a very big game against South Carolina (4-3) Saturday.

Getting past the Gamecocks, who appear to be much better than last year, their two stellar guards and the team's up-tempo style of play will be no easy task, according to Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell.

Sophomore and Cincinnati transfer Devan Downey is lightning quick and can get a shot up in a flash. He runs the point, but is probably also the team's best shooter. Alongside him is another transfer in Zam Fredrick, who joins the Gamecocks after starting his collegiate career at Georgia Tech.

Combined, the two guards are averaging 33.3 points per game and 8.8 assists per game.

"They have tremendous athleticism and a tremendous backcourt, and anytime you have that, you're dangerous," Purnell said. "Anytime you have a better backcourt, your team is better most of the time. I think they're better. …

"I think they're going to be a very good basketball team. I just hope they're not a great basketball team Saturday."

South Carolina starts three sophomores and a freshman. Fredrick, a junior, is the only starting upperclassman.

As a result, the main point of attack for the Clemson defense will be Downey. Expect plenty of traps to get the ball out of his hands and force anyone of the other young players to have to score.

"They're a pretty good guard oriented team," said Tigers senior guard Cliff Hammond. "He's the engine that makes them go and we're gong to try and slow him down as much as possible."

NOTE: Junior forward Julius Powell, who has been plagued by injuries the last 15 months, has told Purnell that he wants to transfer at the end of the semester. Purnell plans to have a long conversation with Powell to make sure that regardless of where he goes that his education is paid for and that he graduates.

Powell was hampered all last season with knee injuries. He had surgery during the offseason to heal them. Then just a few weeks ago, Powell was checked for an irregular heartbeat.

The Newton, N.C., native had a good freshman year, basically winning the Georgia Tech game and Penn State game for the Tigers with his hot shooting from three-point range.

Last year, his shot suffered due to his inability to get lift in his legs. Not much had changed this year in limited playing time.

South Carolina (4-3)
G 2 Devan Downey (5-9, 175) 18.0 ppg, 4.9 apg
G 20 Zam Fredrick (6-0, 203) 15.3 ppg, 3.9 apg
C 44 Sam Muldrow (6-9, 216) 3.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg
F 21 Dominique Archie (6-7, 208) 9.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg
F 5 Brandis Raley-Ross (6-2, 193) 10.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg

No. 18 Clemson (6-0)
G 2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 170) 6.7 ppg, 3.3 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 200) 12.0 ppg, 5.0 apg
C 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 240) 8.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg
F 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 215) 15.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg
F 12 Raymond Sykes (6-9, 220) 2.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg

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