Tough Test Awaits Tigers in Blacksburg

CLEMSON - It seems almost a given tonight's game in Cassell Coliseum will be a nail biter.

WHAT: No. 11 Clemson (17-2, 3-2) at Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)
WHERE: Cassell Coliseum (9,847) - Blacksburg, Va.
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 29 (7:00 PM)
SPREAD: Hokies by 1
TV: ESPN-2 (Brent Musburger, Bob Knight)

* Game Thread
* Video Preview - Part I
* Video Preview - Part II
* Game Notes
* 2008-09 Roster
* 2008-09 Schedule
After all, each of the last six games between these two teams have been decided by five points or less, and five of those six have been decided by two points or less, with the outcome decided on the final possession.

Add in the fact Virginia Tech has won nine of its last 10 games, while the Tigers have stormed out to a 17-2 record, it's a recipe for a highly-contested Thursday night between two ACC rivals.

"It's hard for me to separate all of those games," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said of Clemson's past victories against the Hokies. "We won three or four of those at the buzzer on the last play of the game. But we recognize if we are going to win, it's going to be the same way.

"We will have to keep it close in the second half then play well in the last six minutes to win."

Under head coach Seth Greenberg, the Hokies have traditionally started slow in each of his six seasons in Blacksburg, before catching fire in January and February.

This year appears to be no different.

After surprising losses to Seton Hall and lowly Georgia in November and December, Virginia Tech has won four of its first five ACC games including road wins at Miami and No. 1 Wake Forest.

Now sitting at 14-5 and 4-1 in the league, the Hokies appear to be well on their way to getting back to the NCAA Tournament.

Junior forward Trevor Booker enters Thursday night's game at Virginia Tech averaging 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest.
Improved play on defense combined with outstanding depth has enabled Tech to bolt to second in the ACC entering the heart of the season.

"The thing that impresses me the most is their depth," Purnell said. "They are 10 deep and they don't miss a beat when they go deep in their bench. They are athletic but the they point to over the last five of six games is their defense.

"They are starting understand how important that is and they are embracing it."

Meanwhile the Tigers have lost two of three since opening the season 16-0, both to teams currently ranked in the top five, but they won their last matchup Sunday night against Georgia Tech in convincing fashion.

"We have to do the same thing we did against Georgia Tech with our pressure defense," Demontez Stitt said. "We have to play unselfish like coach has talked about. If we can do those two things, rebound the ball and make our free throws we are going to be a tough team."

Another key will be the play of senior captain K.C. Rivers and junior forward Trevor Booker.

Rivers' scoring has been somewhat down in the last three games and Booker has had problems in the post as well, even in Sunday's win over Georgia Tech.

The two combined for just 17 points and made only four shots the entire game.

Still, the Tigers won comfortably by 14.

"I guess people judge me because I'm not scoring the ball but if you break down the game I'm doing little things to help us win," Rivers said. "I'm helping rebound. I'm guarding. I'm helping defending. I'm pushing the ball, I'm assisting, I'm doing everything else. I'm being a leader.

"This isn't about me. This is about my team and winning. That's all that matters."

Rivers still leads Clemson in scoring at 14.8 points per game. The Hokies are led by a pair of scoring threats- senior A.D. Vassallo averages 18.4 points per contest while sophomore point guard Malcolm Delaney sits at 17.6 ppg.

"They are a very good team," Oglesby added. "The have one of the best three-men in the country in Vassallo and a very good point guard in Malcolm Delaney. It's always a tough place to play up in Blacksburg."

No. 11 Clemson (17-2)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 8.2 PPG, 3.5 APG
G #22 Terrence Oglesby (6-2,190) - 13.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG
C #12 Raymond Sykes (6-9,220) - 8.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG
F #1 K.C. Rivers (6-5,215) - 14.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 14.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG

Virginia Tech (14-5)
G #23 Malcolm Delaney (6-3,170) - 17.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG
G #40 A.D. Vassallo (6-6,216) - 18.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG
F #33 J.T. Thompson (6-6,210) - 4.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG
F #00 Jeff Allen (6-7,230) - 14.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG
F #14 Victor Davila (6-8,245) - 4.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG Top Stories