Tigers want to avoid bubble talk

Demontez Stitt understands Clemson is hanging on for dear life to the NCAA Tournament bubble with the selection committee watching and waiting to see what happens in the Tigers' final three games.

WHAT: Clemson at Florida State
WHERE: Donald L. Tucker Center (12,100), Tallahassee, Fla.
WHEN: Sunday, February 28 (5:30 p.m.)
TV: Fox Sports Net

"Not only did we need to get that win against Maryland, these last three games are very important…we get these last three wins, we put ourselves in a better position," Stitt said.

Coming off a disappointing loss at Maryland earlier this week, Clemson's back on the road against Florida State on Sunday, in Clemson Tuesday and closing the season with another road test at Wake Forest the following Sunday.

He admits that playing and winning on the road in the ACC can be a daunting task.

"It's easy to lose focus. As you see against Maryland, we lost our focus," Stitt said.

The Tigers have remained steady with a 6-1 home record during conference play, but have mostly struggled on the road (1-5).

"When you're at home, you're in to it. The crowd's into it. It's a lot of energy involved, especially with the way we play. Getting the crowd involved at home is a part of what we do," Stitt said. "Then, going on the road, we have to learn how to create our own energy to stay focused. On the road, it's hard when the other team's crowd gets into it and it gets loud. It's easy to lose focus and try to go off and do your own thing.

"I think that's what makes it kind of hard. A lot of teams go on the road and lose focus."

Entering the final week of the season, there are implications aplenty with the top four teams drawing an opening round bye in the ACC Tournament.

Clemson sits in sixth place at 7-6 in ACC play, separated by a half-game from Virginia Tech and Wake Forest (8-6). With Florida State holding on to third at 8-5, a Clemson in Tallahassee Sunday evening win would setup a four-way tie for third-place.

Coach Oliver Purnell said beating Florida State would give Clemson "two more important games" in the Tigers push for a top four finish and an NCAA Tournament bid.

"That's where it is. Both teams would definitely like to have a bye in the (ACC) tournament and pad their tournament resumes," he said. "I have no doubt in my mind that Florida State is playing well and will be ready. We've got to be ready."

Against a bigger Florida State squad, Purnell said Jerai Grant must provide another post presence like he's many times in conference play.

"We talked so much about how he was doing a good job with the early foul trouble. He picks up a couple, we don't play him that much in the first half (against Maryland), we start the second half, boom he's got one right there," Purnell said. "I said, ‘Let's play him.' Sure enough, he picked up another one. Maybe I should have gotten him out after he picked up his third."

Grant was also in foul trouble during the 77-67 Clemson win earlier this month, scoring two points and grabbing five rebounds in just 17 minutes of play.

The Tigers held the Seminoles to 25 percent shooting in the first half that night and rode a 13-point halftime lead to the win. David Potter and Andre Young each scored a game-high 19 points with the Booker Brothers combining for 27 (Devin 14, Trevor 13).

Free-throw shooting down the stretch helped preserve the win as Clemson made more than Florida State attempted that night.

PREDICTION: Clemson 73 Florida State 70

Clemson (19-8, 7-6)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, 175) - 10.8 PPG, 3.3 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 9.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 7.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 7.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 15.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG

Florida State (20-7, 8-5)
G #22 Derwin Kitchen (6-4, 204) – 8.8 PPG, 4 APG
G #21 Michael Snaer (6-5, 200) – 8.9 PPG, 2.5 APG
C#32 Solomon Alabi (7-1,251) - 12 PPG, 6.5 RPG
F #42 Ryan Reid (6-8,238) – 6.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG
F #31 Chris Singleton (6-8,227) - 11 PPG, 7.5 RPG

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