Tigers, Illini meet again

CLEMSON - Coming off two wins and a loss in the 76 Classic, the Tigers are feeling pretty good about last week's cross-country trip to Anaheim, Calif.

WHAT: No. 18 Clemson vs. Illinois
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Wednesday, December 1 (7:15 PM)
SPREAD: Clemson -4

Coach Oliver Purnell said Tuesday the Clemson basketball team learned a lot about themselves and believes those lessons are going to stick around for a while.

"We deepened our identity," Purnell said. "You've heard me say it over and over: the defensive mindset and playing as one offensively, inside and out."

Texas A&M knocked off unbeaten Clemson in the first round. Purnell thinks his team had gotten away from its identity in the first half before rebounding back to normal in the second. The Tigers were then able to score wins over Long Beach State and Butler. The Butler win was the first top-10 non-conference victory since 1997.

Demontez Stitt paced the Tigers Sunday night in the one-point win over No. 10 Butler. (Roy Philpott)

"I was pleased to get out of there 2-1 in perhaps the best pre-conference tournament in the country this year," Purnell said.

Looking back to the tournament, Tanner Smith believes thriving off the energy created on the defensive end is what's going to help the most. He said Bryan Narcisse helped to create some of that much needed energy. As the season continues, it can't only be Narcisse who's providing that spark.

"We need to make sure that everybody is ready and brings energy," Smith said. "In Anaheim, it was tough. There aren't many fans in the stands and we're however many miles from home. It was a much different atmosphere up there--much like an NCAA Tournament game. We had to create our own energy."

After arriving back in Clemson on Monday, the Tigers spent a little bit of time scouting Illinois for Wednesday night's game versus the Illini in the Big-Ten/ACC Challenge.

"We played them last year, so we know a little bit a bout them. We're a little familiar with them," Smith said.

Clemson and Illinois will meet for only the fourth time in series history. The Illini hold a 2-1 advantage in the three games, but Clemson won the most recent meeting, 76-74 last season.

Illinois entered the Las Vegas Invitation at 4-0 before losing 60-58 to Utah and 72-68 a day later to Bradley. Clemson and Illinois have a common opponent in Presbyterian College. The Tigers won 84-41 in their season opener. The Illini beat the Blue Hose 94-48 a week to the day later.

Bruce Weber's leading is junior guard Demetri McCamey, who scores 12.7 PPG. McCamey scored 20 points in last year's matchup with Clemson. Junior forward Mike Davis, who had a career-best 28 points last season versus the Tigers, is averaging a double-double with 11.8 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

Freshman guard Brandon Paul and 7-1 junior center Mike Tisdale score in double figures, averaging 11.3 and 10.8, respectively.

"I think they're physically and athletically better (than last year)," Purnell said. "They've got five of their top six (back). They look a lot similar, but more athletic. They'll be ready to battle. They'll be a physical team."

Wednesday night's game is one of five nationally-televised home games this season.

No. 18 Clemson (6-1)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 9.4 PPG, 4.1 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 11.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 4.3 PPG, 4 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,215) - 10.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 13.9 PPG, 8.7RPG

Illinois (4-2)
G #3 Brandon Paul (6-4,195) - 11.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG
G #32 Demetri McCamey (6-3, 200) - 12.7 PPG, 6 APG
C #54 Mike Tisdale (7-1,235) - 10.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG
G #1 D.J. Richardson (6-3,185) - 9.5 PPG, 3 APG
F #24 Mike Davis (6-9,220) - 11.8 PPG, 10 RPG

CUTigers.com Top Stories