Big night for Rivers, Sykes

CLEMSON - It was just after practice Monday at Littlejohn Coliseum when K.C. Rivers stood at center court surrounded by his teammates and took one last look.

WHAT: Virginia (9-16, 3-11 ACC) at No. 18 Clemson (22-6, 8-6)
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000) – Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Tuesday, March 3, (7 p.m.)
TV: Fox Sports South

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"I told them this is it for ol' No. 1 on this court," the senior said. "I'm going to enjoy it, but at the same time I'm going to be eager to get a win and go out with a bang on my last home game here."

Clemson, who slipped to No. 18 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and to No. 19 in the USA Today / ESPN Coaches Poll, needs to send Rivers and fellow senior Raymond Sykes out with a bang in the worst way. Since moving up to No. 2 in the ACC standings a week ago, the Tigers (22-6, 8-6) have lost two straight and now find themselves on the outside looking in for one of the four first-round byes in next week's ACC Tournament.

Clemson hosts Virginia (9-16, 3-11) Tuesday at Littlejohn in its final home game of the season. The Cavaliers beat Clemson 85-81 in overtime back on Feb. 15 in Charlottesville.

"This is huge. They already have a win over us and we have just dropped two," Sykes said. "We need this so we can finish in the top four in the ACC. We need this to help us in the NCAA Tournament. This is a huge game for us."

The fact that it is senior night, and the fact that Rivers is the program's winning-est player in terms of being a starter makes it that more important as well.

"This is a very important night for our basketball program because it is senior night," head coach Oliver Purnell said. "That is always very important to me and it's important to our program. In the past our team has done a good job by honoring our seniors by the way they have played and we have been fortunate enough to win most of those."

In fact, the Tigers are 4-1 under Purnell on senior night, winning four straight.

Seniors Ray Sykes and K.C. Rivers will be playing in their final home game Tuesday night against Virginia.
"I don't have to stress (that it's senior night)," Rivers said. "If you look back to all the senior night games since Coach Purnell has been here, they have always been good, they have always been exciting and Clemson has always won.

"There really isn't anything I have to say. You know, what's at stake for us seniors on senior night. We have to get ourselves back in the win column. We have to get win number nine, which would be big for us.

"We are still in that foot race to get that bye. It is not over with."

And Rivers and Sykes are both heading into Tuesday's game believing this is just the beginning of their senior year and not the end.

"I think these guys are ready to make a run and I think there is more than just one in us," Rivers said. "This team is capable of doing a lot of things. This year nobody gave this team any credit for being as good as we are.

"A lot of people doubted we would have the kind of successful season that we are having. We are shocking a lot of people and that alone, I'm proud of."

"We are looking at these last two games as must wins. We are not thinking about the end is coming. We are thinking about how we have 10 more games to go. That's what we are looking forward to."

PROBABLE STARTERS
No. 18 Clemson Tigers (22-6)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 175) – 8.6 PPG, 3.8 APG
G #22 Terrence Oglesby (6-2, 190) – 13.6 PPG, 1.9 APG
C #12 Raymond Sykes (6-9, 220) – 7.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG
F #1 K.C. Rivers (6-9, 215) – 14.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 240) – 15.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG

Virginia Cavaliers (9-16)
G #23 Jeff Jones (6-4, 193) – 6.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG
G #15 Sylven Landesberg (6-6, 209) – 17.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG
C #21 Tunji Soroye (6-11, 252) – 2.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG
F #45 Solomon Tat (6-5, 223) – 0.7 PPG, 1.0 RPG
F #4 Calvin Baker (6-2, 186) – 8.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG

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