Tigers improve team chemistry

CLEMSON - A year ago, Clemson limped its way into the ACC Tournament, finishing the final 10 games of the regular season at 5-5.

Lack of chemistry and a commitment on the defensive end of the floor saw the Tigers bounced out of both the ACC and NCAA tournaments in the opening round.

Since dropping three-straight conference games in late January, Clemson has won six of the last eight games with a chance to win a third-straight on Sunday against Wake Forest.

Junior point guard Demontez Stitt attributes the Tigers' improved play to better team chemistry.

"It's a lot different. This time last year, our team wasn't where it should have been or where we wanted it to be," he said. "We had guys with different agendas, personal goals that really set some of the players apart."

That's not the case anymore.

"Guys respect each other. You say something to a guy on the team and guys listen. As leaders, it makes it a lot easier when you have guys that want to listen and guys that want to get better," he said. "I think we're playing with confidence right now. I think we were lacking that for a little bit, just confidence, that aggressiveness."

Coach Oliver Purnell happily admits there's a different feeling this season, compared to last. For him, it's what's happening on the court that's making the biggest difference.

Issues off the court were "overblown" down the stretch of the 2008-09 season. The real issue, he said, was defending.

"We were not defending as well. That's the main thing. Now, we're not trying to out-score people," he said.

Along with an improved commitment on the defensive end, Purnell admits team chemistry does "feel different" a year later. In fact, he believes it's as good now as it's been all season.

"It's no surprise we're probably playing as well as we've played all year long. I think it feels good," he said.

Clemson heads to Wake Forest on Sunday for the final regular season game on the ACC schedule before entering ACC Tournament play later in the week.

"We know that we're capable of winning the ACC Championship, but it all boils down to focus and who wants it more," Stitt said.

Chemistry, commitment to defense and confidence—a potential formula for success in March.

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