Tigers must defend the flex

CLEMSON - Contrasting styles of basketball take to the floor Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum when Clemson hosts Boston College.

WHAT: No. 21 Clemson vs. Boston College
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000) - Clemson, S.C.
WHEN: Saturday, January 9 (4 PM)
SPREAD: Clemson by 9.5
TV: Raycom Sports, ESPN 360

Oliver Purnell's run-and-gun brand of play takes on a half-court oriented team, orchestrated by 13-year coach Al Skinner.

"They want to play a slower tempo," Purnell said. "The last two teams we've played have slowed the tempo on us. It's really bothered us. We expect more of the same from Boston College."

He understands that the battle to control the game's tempo goes back-and-forth. It's a matter of withstanding those minutes when Clemson's press has been dialed down by their opponent.

Getting the press rolling along again requires one thing.

"The best way to speed that up is to score," Purnell said.

Points were at a premium in the first half of Clemson's74-53 loss to Duke, as the Tiger shot just 17 percent from the field in the opening half.

"We had four opportunities to press in the first half. That alone is going to slow the tempo," Purnell said.

There are two ways to avoid another abysmal showing--better defense and better shooting. Clemson did that in the second half at Cameron, shooting 58 percent, including 3-7 on 3-point shots. It was the high-pressure, full-court defense that allowed the Tigers to have more success in the second half.

"We know we didn't play our best against Duke," said Tanner Smith, "but we know that we've got to prepare just as hard for Boston College, get ready for a great team to come in here, bounce back and get a win."

Picking up that first win will be a tough task against a team that returns all but one player from last squad that finished 9-7 in the ACC and 22-12 overall. This season, Boston College has started off 10-5 (1-0 in ACC). Clemson enters at 12-3 (0-1 in ACC).

Tyrese Rice is the only player gone from last season. Though he was the Eagles' best player, there are plenty of productive veterans who've returned.

Junior forward Joe Trapani leads Boston College in scoring with 15.2 points per game. He's also pulling down 7 rebounds per game and shoots a solid 36 percent from behind the arc. Trapani leads the team with 26 3-point field goals. Junior forward Corey Raji averages 13.4 points and averages a team-best 7.5 rebounds per game.

Sophomore guard Reggie Jackson averages 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds and is second on the team in assists. Junior guard Rakim Sanders also scores in double figures, averaging 12.3 per game. Junior guard Biko Paris leads the team with 5.7 assists per game.

Senior forward Tyler Roche comes off the bench and shoots a team best 43 percent from behind the 3-point line.

"No environment is going to rattle them," Purnell said. "They're a returning NCAA team...the thing that I think about when I watch them is their resilience, and they've been around a long time."

Saturday's game is a must-win if the Tigers want to avoid making things too hard for themselves down the road.

"You definitely don't want to start off in the ACC at 0-2," Smith said. "That puts you really behind teams that are 2-0. You're already two games back."

Second-chance points will be at a premium against Boston College, which is best in the conference in rebounding. The Eagles have hit the glass better than 13 of their first 15 opponents, 10 of which have been by double-digit margins.

Purnell said Boston College operates its half-court offense primarily from the boxes and elbows, allowing for the Eagles to be a solid rebounding team.

"They post up practically all of their players," he said. "They particularly like to post up their wings--they're big and strong."

"We've got to be ready to function in that type of environment--close in, fighting around the basket."

No. 21 Clemson (12-3)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 10.6 PPG, 3.8 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 10.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 5.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 7.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 14.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG

Boston College (10-5)
G #5 Biko Paris (6-1, 200) - 7.1 PPG, 5.7 APG
G #0 Reggie Jackson (6-3, 200) - 13.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG
F #12 Joe Trapani (6-8,228) - 15.2 PPG, 7 RPG
F #11 Corey Raji (6-6,218) - 13.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG
F #15 Rakim Sanders (6-5,228) - 12.3 PPG, 4 RPG

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