Tigers Must Limit Vasquez, Gist

CLEMSON – A staple of Clemson's defense is the trapping and pressure from one end of the court to the other. It causes turnovers, which in turn leads to easy points. But trying get trap a 6-foot-5 point guard who leads the ACC in assists might make that a difficult feat on which to rely.

WHAT: Clemson (20-7, 8-5 ACC) at Maryland (18-11, 8-6 ACC)
WHERE: Comcast Center
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Sunday

Maryland sophomore Greivis Vasquez is having about as good a season as anyone in the conference and he will no doubt be the main focus of the Tigers when they face each other Sunday night, in a game that could determine third place in the ACC standings.

Vasquez is fourth in the ACC in scoring at 17.7, but oddly enough leads the league in assists at 6.7 per game. That's a very unusual combination to have. But just for good measure, he's also 20th in the conference in rebounding at 5.6 a game.

"Vasquez presents all kinds of problems," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "He's certainly their go-to guy and their motivator."

What makes him so difficult to defend is that he's tall, so he can either shoot over smaller guards, or post them up on the blocks. And since he's also a quality shooter from nearly anywhere on the court, his height gives him that extra edge.

His height also helps him pass over the trapping defenses.

"That's one of his advantages with his size," Purnell said. "When he gets into the lane, it's difficult to block his shots because of his length. It's definitely a dimension that difficult to match up with."

Vasquez does commit more than four turnovers a game, but that's due in large part because he's second in the ACC in minutes played at nearly 37 a game.

However, even if Clemson is able to contain Vasquez it will have to deal with the like of forward James Gist, who is eighth in the league in scoring (16.1), fourth in rebounding (7.9) and second in blocks (2.21).

"(Gist) is kind of like a mirror image of myself, except doesn't have to deal with injuries," said Tigers senior forward James Mays, who said he's friends with Gist. "He's big and athletic and can run."

Looking at the big picture, a win for Clemson would likely vault it into the top 25, meaning a much better seeding in the NCAA Tournament, which would be guaranteed with nine conference wins.

It would also all mean the Tigers won't have to play Thursday in the opening round of the ACC Tournament. That would be a huge change from the norm.

Clemson has played in the first game of the ACC Tournament seven straight years and in eight of the last nine. Moreover, the Tigers have played four straight noon games in the tournament.

Teams generally don't like to play the very first game out of the shoot. They like to watch the other games and get into the mindset.

"That'd be huge for us," Clemson guard K.C. Rivers said. "That'd be real big not to have to play that noon game. But that's not all we're thinking about now. We're just focusing in on Maryland."

Clemson (20-7, 8-5 ACC)
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 200) 12.0 ppg, 3.9 apg
G 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 215) 15.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg
C 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 240) 11.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 215) 2.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg
F 40 James Mays (6-9, 230) 10.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg

Maryland (18-11, 8-6 ACC)
G 21 Greivis Vasquez (6-5, 195) 17.7 ppg, 6.7 apg
G 5 Eric Hayes (6-3, 175) 10.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg
C 50 Bambale Osby (6-8, 250) 11.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg
F 23 James Gist (6-8, 223) 16.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg
F 21 Landon Milbourne (6-7, 207) 8.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg

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