Tigers hope to avoid Jackets' sting

CLEMSON - The school's all-time leader in road wins will take Clemson back on the road Tuesday night, this time the Tigers head to Atlanta.

WHAT: No. 16 Clemson vs. No. 18 Georgia Tech
WHERE: Alexander Memorial Coliseum (9,191) - Atlanta, G.A.
WHEN: Tuesday, January 19 (7 PM)
SPREAD: Georgia Tech by 4

CUTigersTV: Oliver Purnell

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Oliver Purnell's 15th career road ACC win was at N.C. State on Saturday. Though it didn't end pretty, it got the job done.

"I was thrilled with our mindset at the start of the game," he said. "I was thrilled with our mindset at the end of the game where our guys really played with poise and confidence in knocking down our free throws and getting the ball offensively where we needed to get it.

"Not to mention, getting two or three big stops, none more important or spectacular than Jerai Grant's block that preserved the win, then we had (David) Potter and (Trevor) Booker contesting the last shot."

Coupled with Demontez Stitt's foot injury with most of the second half left to play, the Tigers fought off the Wolfpack's run, and held on to win for the third time in conference play.

Next up is a tough Georgia Tech team, which could be played without Stitt, who's officially listed as questionable with Andre Young set to fill in as the starter, though they've often played at the same time.

The Yellow Jackets are led by one of the ACC's best front courts in junior forward Gani Lawal and freshman center Derrick Favors. Clemson enters at 15-3 overall (3-1 in ACC) while Georgia Tech is 13-4 (2-2 in ACC).

"I'm not sure there's anybody in our league that's playing any better right now. I'm not sure there's anybody more talented than they are," Purnell said of Paul Hewitt's 18th ranked Yellow Jackets.

Jerai Grant's play since conference play started has been critical in Clemson's 3-1 start. (Kevin Bray)
Lawal and Favors lead Georgia Tech in scoring, averaging 15.2 and 11.5 points per game, respectively. Lawal averages 9.2 rebounds and Favors 8.6.

Sophomore guard Imam Shumpert, freshman guard Mfon Udofia and senior forward Zachary Peacock all average double figures in scoring.

"It's going to be a challenge defensively to impose our will and team defensively to make them take tough shots," said Tanner Smith, who grew up a third-generation Georgia Tech fan.

The effort Purnell spoke from the beginning and end of the N.C. State win must carry over to Tuesday.

Smith feels grinding out a win before a tough crowd in Raleigh will help Clemson's cause in Atlanta. At the same time, the level of play Tuesday will have to be more consistent than it was Saturday.

"We're going to have to play 40 minutes. We played about 25 (against N.C. State)," Smith said. "If we want to get that win against Georgia Tech, we're going to have to play 40 minutes."

Georgia Tech's opponents are shooting 29 percent from behind the 3-point line against the Yellow Jackets while Clemson is hitting 35 percent of its shots from behind the arc. Along with the edge in rebounding, it's going to be tough for the Tigers to win a fourth-straight ACC game.

The battle between Booker/Grant and Lawal/Favors could have a big impact on who's able to walk away with the win. And since it appears that Stitt won't be at full strength, along with the home court advantage, the Yellow Jackets get the edge.

Prediction Georgia Tech 72 Clemson 65

No. 16 Clemson (15-3)
G #11 Andre Young (5-9,170) - 8.1 PPG, 2.3APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 10.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 6.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 6.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 15.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG

No. 18 Georgia Tech (13-4)
G #1 Imam Shumpert (6-5, 200) - 10.9 PPG, 3.3 APG
G #0 Mfon Udofia (6-2, 175) - 10.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG
C #14 Derrick Favors (6-10,234) - 11.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG
F #31 Gani Lawal (6-9,233) - 15.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG
F #13 Andre Bell (6-6,220) - 5.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG

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