Tigers need big win Wednesday

Clemson's season has hit a snag that could end up costing the Tigers a third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid if they don't snap out of it.

Their 70-59 loss at Virginia Tech dropped them to 4-5 in the ACC and 16-7 overall, which isn't disastrous if they can take advantage of a three-game homestand coming up.

But they pretty much need a sweep of the three games (Florida State, Miami, Virginia) to give themselves a little cushion because they finish the regular season with three of their last four games on the road.

The problem is that with the exception of their 62-53 home win over Maryland, the Tigers' recent play hasn't exactly inspired confidence in their ability to get things moving again.

The Tigers have won only one of their last five games after beginning league play by winning three of their first four.

They also are coming off their worst shooting performance of the season (19 of 62, 30.6 percent) in the loss at Blacksburg.

That -- as well as 30 personal fouls that resulted in 46 free throw attempts for Tech -- kept them from taking advantage of an equally poor shooting game by the Hokies, who were only 15 of 49 to match Clemson's 30.6 percent mark.

And with Florida State looming on the horizon Wednesday, there's little doubt it's shaping up as a must-win.

LOOKING AHEAD
In the minutes before tipoff of a must-win game Feb. 6 against Miami, Florida State basketball coach Leonard Hamilton looked at sophomore guard Luke Loucks and said simply, "We need a good one out of you tonight."

With that, Loucks, who grew up in Clearwater, Fla., responded with the game of his career, scoring 19 points as the Seminoles survived a scare to beat Miami 71-65.

The win kept the Seminoles (17-6, 5-4 in ACC) above .500 in the league as they head on the road for three of the next four games. They must win at least one, probably two, to be in good shape for the NCAA Tournament.

"He (Loucks) made some big shots," said Miami coach Frank Haith. "His (season) numbers didn't indicate he would have that kind of night. You've got to give him credit."

Said Loucks: "If I was their coach, I probably would have sagged off of me, too, the way I've been shooting."

The Seminoles' normally lock-down defense struggled, allowing Miami to score 18 points in the final four minutes to keep the game close.

"You've got to win your games at home and find a way to steal a few on the road," Hamilton said. "That's the formula."

The Seminoles found another way to win while not at their best.

Their free throw shooting was subpar, their defense was off, but they made just 11 turnovers and got a better-than-average effort from their bench. After losing at home to Maryland 36 hours earlier, this was as big of a game as the Seminoles have played this season. It may provide a jolt of confidence as they head on the road.

NOTES
--Clemson's 30.6 shooting percent against Virginia Tech (19 of 62) was a season low. Jerai Grant was 4-of-7 from the field, and Bryan Narcisse made his only field goal attempt as they were the only Tigers to shoot better than 40 percent.

--Senior F Trevor Booker has had back-to-back subpar shooting games after going just 2-of-10 from the field against Virginia Tech and settling for seven points to match a season-low. He was only 2 of 16 in the previous game against Maryland but hit a 3-pointer and was 5 of 6 on free throws for 10 points, his 13th consecutive game in double figures.

ON THE SPOT: The Tigers are shooting only 25.6 percent form 3-point range in ACC play. In their last four games, they are only 17 of 76 (22.4 percent) from behind the arc.

SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT: Jerai Grant continued his strong play by scoring 11 points and grabbing 15 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double against Virginia Tech. He also had 18 points and 12 boards against Maryland. Grant now has three double-doubles this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Foul trouble has been a problem for us. I'm just very disappointed that we didn't get the job done." -- Coach Oliver Purnell, after Clemson's loss at Virginia Tech.

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