WHERE: Colonial Center (18,000) - Columbia, S.C.
WHEN: Tuesday, Dec. 30 (7:00 PM)
SPREAD: Tigers by 3
TV: Fox Sports South
* CUTigers.com Game Thread
* Rivers Previews USC
* Purnell Previews USC
* Game Notes
* 2008-09 Roster
* 2008-09 Schedule
Entering Tuesday night's game inside the Colonial Center, the Tigers have won four in a row against their in-state rival, including an easy 85-74 win last year in Littlejohn Coliseum in a game in which the Tigers never trailed.
But that's not to suggest the next matchup will be easy.
In fact, it promises to be anything but.
First-year head coach Darrin Horn has the Gamecocks riding a five-game winning streak through the early stages of the 2008-09 season.
"It's obvious to me that they are an improved basketball team compared to last year," head coach Oliver Purnell said. "Their style of play presents a challenge. They are a pressing, running team. Obviously that is something we do. And we understand how effective it can be and you have to be ready for it."
South Carolina boasts one of the top players in the nation in point guard Devan Downey. He leads the Gamecocks in scoring at over 19 points per game and is joined in the backcourt by another scorer in Zam Fredrick, who is averaging over 15 points per contest.
"They have two outstanding guards," Purnell said. "Most people will agree when you have two outstanding guards you have a chance to win the basketball game. It's not that they don't have other good players because they certainly do when you look at their lineup but Downey and Frederick are special."
Both teams are also off to hot starts with the Tigers remaining undefeated at 12-0 and with the Gamecocks off to their best start since the 2003-04 season at 9-1.
Still, this has been a series Clemson has dominated as of late, and senior K.C. Rivers will have the opportunity to do the same thing Cliff Hammonds, Sam Perry and James Mays did a year ago- go a perfect 4-0 against their archrival.
"This is going to be a statement game for South Carolina I'm pretty sure," Rivers said. "They are geared up to play us. Like Coach Purnell says to us, this is their Super Bowl and it's on their turf this time.
"Last year it was here and this will be my final year there. So, it's going to be an all-out war and this is what rivalries are all about."
Rivers comes into the game leading the Tigers in scoring at over 14 points per game. Trevor Booker paces Clemson on the boards with 10 per game and figures to be a critical player against the Gamecocks' front court of Dominique Archie and center Mike Holmes.
And for Purnell- he knows the importance of this game all too well.
Just like football, Tuesday night's game against the Gamecocks is one of the most important of the year.
"It's a rivalry game. All the cliches apply," he said. "In this particular case both teams are having good years and that adds a little spice to it. Both teams are at a place where they'd like to take it to the next level. There is more riding on it. "The intensity level is up and both teams are playing with emotion and passion."
And Tuesday night he's hoping his team plays with a little more energy and passion than the home squad.
No. 20 Clemson (12-0)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 9.3 PPG, 4.2 APG
G #22 Terrence Oglesby (6-2,190) - 12.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG
C #12 Raymond Sykes (6-9,220) - 9.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG
F #1 K.C. Rivers (6-5,215) - 14.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 14.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG
South Carolina (9-1)
G #2 Devan Downey (5-9,175) - 19.0 PPG, 4.5 APG
G #20 Zam Fredrick (6-0,203) - 15.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG
C #24 Mike Holmes (6-7,230) - 13.0 PPG, 8.8 RPG
F #31 Evaldas Baniulis (6-7,210) - 9.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG
F #21 Dominique Archie (6-7,230) - 11.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG