Tigers hoping to avoid letdown

CLEMSON - Both Clemson and N.C. State head into Saturday's game after beating ranked teams earlier this week.

WHAT: No. 19 Clemson at North Carolina State
WHERE: RBC Center (19,700) - Raleigh, N.C.
WHEN: Saturday, January 16 (Noon)
SPREAD: Tigers by 3.5
TV: Raycom, ESPN 360

The Wolfpack went on the road to drop No. 25 Florida State 88-81 and the Tigers are coming of an 83-64 win over No. 12 North Carolina.

But last time a Clemson team won their next game after beating a ranked opponent was 1997-98.

"It's very important that we as coaches and players get our feet firmly on the floor," said head coach Oliver Purnell, "because we're in for a tough, tough outing at N.C. State."

The Tigers are going to have to fight "human nature" to avoid building on to the streak of losing, following a win over a ranked opponent.

"We've had some big wins over teams that aren't ranked at the time, and we've come back and won," Purnell said. "What that stat points out, there's a let up--a human nature letup."

After playing before an electric home crowd against the Tar Heels on Wednesday, Tanner Smith doesn't foresee any letup heading into Raleigh.

"It's a little easier to come out to a sell-out crowd and bring that emotion at home," he said. "As a veteran team, we need to bring that emotion on the road. There's no better opportunity than on Saturday."

As usual, defense will take priority, but even more so against the sharp-shooting Wolfpack squad that shoots 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Smith admits there have been times this season when Clemson has struggled to defend good shooting teams.

"If we really concentrate on that, I think we can stop them. We really concentrated on our post-defense and rebounding against Carolina," he said. "As long as we just execute defensively to do what we need to do to take them out of their game, I think we'll be alright."

Several players are lethal from behind the 3-point arc for N.C. State. Senior forward Dennis Horner is 19-of-41 (46 percent) this season, junior point guard Javier Gonzalez is 24-of-63 (38 percent),freshman guard Scott Wood is 34-of-90 (38 percent) and sophomore guard Julius Mays is 15-of-43 (35 percent).

Junior forward/center Tracy Smith leads all Wolfpack scorers with 16.9 points per game, though he's yet to attempt a three this season.

"They need 3-point shooting to play well offensively. They've got the good balance with Smith inside--he's a guy they go to," Purnell said. "When they play really well, they've got good production from the 3-point line.

As well as N.C. State does shooting the ball, the performance defending the shot isn't quite so good.

Opposing teams are shooting 41 percent from the field against the Wolfpack, which is 10th best in the league. Clemson is third in the ACC in field goal percentage, shooting 48 percent.

Of the players who are 6-8 or taller for Sidney Lowe's team, Horner and Smith are the only two upperclassmen.

Coming off a win that never saw Clemson trailing, the Tigers shot well in the first-half from behind the 3-point line (47 percent) before going an abysmal 0-for-11 in the second frame. From the free-throw line, however, Clemson hit 90 percent against North Carolina.

"I think we kind of forgot to go inside-out," Tanner Smith said. "We took a couple of jump shots early and quick. We didn't really do what we did in the first half, which was get open three's by going inside."

Though Clemson's isn't significantly bigger than N.C. State, Trevor Booker and Jerai Grant should be able to have their way in the post, especially if the three's are falling.

PREDICTION: Clemson 75 North Carolina State 62

No. 19 Clemson (14-3, 2-1)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 11.4 PPG, 3.8 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 10.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 6.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 7.2 PPG, 3 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 15.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG

North Carolina State (12-5, 1-2)
G #10 Javier Gonzalez (5-11, 172) - 10.5 PPG, 4.5 APG
G #12 Farnold Degand (6-3, 185) - 5.6 PPG, 2.52 RPG
C #23 Tracy Smith (6-8,240) - 16.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG
F #31 Dennis Horner (6-9,218) - 13.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG
F #15 Scott Wood (6-6,175) - 8.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG

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