Tigers, Aggies set to tangle out west

CLEMSON - We're talking practice, not turkey. That's the plan for the 19th ranked Clemson basketball team, which opens first round play of the 76 Classic on Thanksgiving Day versus Texas A&M.

WHAT: No. 19 Clemson vs. Texas A&M
WHERE: Anaheim Convention Center (7,500) - Anaheim, Calif.
WHEN: Thursday, November 26 (4:30 PM)
SPREAD: Tigers by 6.5
TV: ESPN-2

Four wins over opponents from the Big South and Southern Conferences doesn't quite compare to the competition the Tigers will face in Anaheim. Clemson has won all four games by at least 22 points, including a 102-66 drubbing of Winthrop earlier this week. Coach Oliver Purnell believes he'll be able to better gauge Clemson after the tournament.

"I think we've got a pretty good team," he said. "We've certainly got to improve to beat really good teams."

Before the team flew to California, Purnell said he was confident that his team would play well in the tournament without having studied any team in the tournament.

"It might be the Lakers waiting for us out there," he said. "But I feel good that we can go out there and play with those teams.

"I'm anxious and interested to kind of see how we react under those circumstances."


Senior forward Trevor Booker is averaging 13.8 points and 10 rebounds per game through the first four games of the 2009-10 season. (Kevin Bray)

With tip-off set for 4:30 (EST) Thursday, Purnell expects the Aggies to be a physical challenge for the Tigers.

In his third season in College Station, Mark Turgeon leads the 3-0 Aggies to Anaheim with an 88-69 win over Division II Angelo State, an 80-68 win over SMU and a 68-49 win over Samford.

Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis are returning starters from last season's team that lost to Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Sloan leads the team with 20 PPG and is the Aggie's biggest threat from downtown, having hit 9-12 from 3-point range. Davis is a powerful low-post player, much in the same mold of Trevor Booker. Davis is averaging 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Clemson point guard Andre Young likes where his team sits heading into three-straight nationally televised games.

"I like where we are. We're playing together, the chemistry is great and we have a good defensive focus. That defense leads to offense," he said. "We're pretty young too. We can only get better."

In a system that doesn't put an emphasis on starting, Young has done well in coming off the bench to spell Demontez Stitt.

"The chemistry (with Stitt) is great. We're constantly helping each other out, patting each other on the back, and keeping us going, complimenting each other--I think all of that added up together helps our play," Young said.

He averages 10.5 points and 3.75 assists per game and is shooting 57 percent (8-14) from behind the 3-point line.

"I think (Young) has played great, not just because of his point guard play, but because he gives us such another threat out there from 3-point land," Purnell said. "The guys look for him. When the post guys get the ball, feel pressure, they look for him either at the top of the key or on the weak side."

The winner of Clemson/Texas A&M will play the winner of West Virginia/Long Beach State on Friday at 2:30 PM on ESPN. The losers play at 5 on ESPNU. Other first-round matchups include: Minnesota vs. Butler and UCLA vs. Portland.

All eight teams are off Saturday with each team allotted time to travel to Disneyland.

The Championship Game is scheduled for Sunday at 10 PM.

Clemson has won three regular season tournament championships in the past three seasons under Purnell. His 2005-06 Tigers won the San Juan Shootout, the Cox Classic in Norfolk, V.A. a year later and the inaugural Charleston Classic crown last season.

PROBABLE STARTERS
No. 19 Clemson (4-0)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 6.5 PPG, 4.5 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 10.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 5.3 PPG, 4 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,215) - 12 PPG, 2.3 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 13.8 PPG, 10 RPG

PROBABLE STARTERS
Texas A&M (3-0)
G #15 Donald Sloan (6-3,205) - 20 PPG, 4.7 RPG
G #3 Derrick Roland (6-4, 185) - 15.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG
G #5 Dash Harris (6-1,175) - 7.7 PPG, 4 APG
F #22 Khris Middleton (6-7,195) - .7 PPG, 4 RPG
F #00 Bryan Davis (6-9,240) - 7.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG

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