Previewing Georgia Tech

ATLANTA - It never seems to get old for Oliver Purnell.

WHAT: No. 17 Clemson (23-7) vs. Georgia Tech (11-18)
WHERE: The Georgia Dome - Atlanta
WHEN: Thursday, March 12, 2:30 p.m.
SPREAD: Clemson -9.5
TV: Raycom

VIDEO PREVIEW

No matter where his team is at in the ACC standings, and no matter what's at stake, today's start of the ACC Tournament is always the best time of the year for him.

"Every time I have the opportunity to compete in the ACC Tournament, it just kind of reminds me of why I got into coaching and I'm certainly going to remind our players that this is what they signed up for," the Clemson coach said. "Being a part of the Granddaddy of them all, the ACC Tournament is something special.

"You are going to see some great games, some great players and all of that. Simply put, what we want to do is put our best foot forward. We want to play our best basketball at the most important time of the year.

"We have some experience in that department from last year."

Last year, 17th-ranked Clemson went all the way to the ACC Championship game. This time around it will have to win three straight games just to get there, which starts this afternoon against No. 12 seed Georgia Tech at The Georgia Dome.

"The number one thing for us to do is advance because in order to be in the championship game we have to win three games and we can't look that far ahead," Purnell said. "We don't have the (ability) to be able to do that and win. We have to focus on this game, our preparation and then of course Georgia Tech, a team that has played some really good basketball this year."

The Yellow Jackets have played good basketball against almost everyone this year, but has as found ways to lose games in the closing moments. Twice Georgia Tech played the Tigers tough, only to see Clemson pull away late in both contest.

Clemson forward K.C. Rivers says he is going to remind his teammates of that, while also telling them about the last time the Tigers faced an opponent it had beaten twice in the regular season only to lose to them in the first ACC Tournament game.

That's what happened two years ago against Florida State in Tampa - a loss that knocked the Tigers out of any NCAA consideration.

"It is hard to beat a team three times," the senior said. "You see them twice, but that third time is a lot different. You see a different side. You see they are more passionate and aggressive.

"They have the 'we don't care attitude.' To them they don't feel like they have nothing to lose and to us we do, in a sense, have something to lose."

What the Tigers have to lose is a possible No. 4 seed in next week's NCAA Tournament. Clemson more than likely will need at least two wins in the ACC Tournament to be considered for such. But Rivers says it's not the NCAA Tournament seeding they care about losing, it is momentum.

Coming into the tournament, the Tigers lost three of their final four games. Clemson needs a strong showing at the ACC Tournament in order to give it some much needed confidence.

"Winning builds momentum. It builds itself," Rivers said. "A winning feeling gives you that momentum. When you are winning a lot you get a great feeling that you want to keep winning. You don't want to have that losing feeling.

"It is not a great feeling losing in the NCAA Tournament. Not to jump ahead of myself, but that hurts, it really hurts."

And that's why Purnell wants his squad to embrace the ACC Tournament experience and the opportunity that awaits them today. As for tomorrow, he will take care of that later.

"Our concern and focus needs to be and has to be Georgia Tech," he said.

Probable Starters
No. 17 Clemson Tigers (23-7)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 175) - 8.8 PPG, 3.7 APG
G #22 Terrence Oglesby (6-2, 190) - 13.6 PPG, 1.8 APG
C #12 Raymond Sykes (6-9, 220) - 7.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG
F #1 K.C. Rivers (6-9, 215) - 14.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7, 240) - 15.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG

Georgia Tech (11-18)
G #0 Lewis Clinch (6-3,196) - 14.3 PPG, 3.5 APG
G #1 Inman Schumpert (6-5, 200) - 10.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG
C #31 Gani Lawal (6-9, 233) - 15.0 PPG, 9.4 RPG
F #3 Maurice Miller (6-1, 181) - 6.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG
F #35 Zachery Peacock (6-8, 240) - 9.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG


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