Tigers looking for elusive win at Wake

CLEMSON - In the ACC regular season finale on Sunday, Clemson controls its own destiny in the run for a regular season top four finish, but has a tough road test standing in the way at Wake Forest.

WHAT: Clemson at Wake Forest
WHERE: Joel Coliseum (14,655) – Winston-Salem, N.C.
WHEN: Tuesday, March 2 (6 p.m.)
SPREAD: Wake by 1
TV: Fox Sports National

With a win, the Tigers clinch the third seed and one of four first-round byes in the ACC Tournament.

"We're fighting to be in the best position possible to win the ACC Championship. The best way to do that is two ways," head coach Oliver Purnell said, "to get a bye, the other one is to go into the tournament playing well--on a roll, so to speak."

After wins on Saturday by Florida State and Virginia Tech, the Seminoles and Hokies are tied for third with the Tigers in fifth and the Demon Deacons in sixth. Clemson would enter the ACC Tournament as a six seed with a loss.

Strangely enough, the Tigers are looking to snap a losing streak at Wake Forest that's spanned two decades. In fact, less than half of Clemson's current roster was born before 89-75 win in Winston-Salem on Feb. 21 1990.

In order to break that dubious streak, the Tigers must win on Senior Night at Joel Coliseum. Earlier this week, Clemson enjoyed the benefits of playing and winning before a home crowd on Senior Night, assuring a winning record in conference play.

Demontez Stitt knows he'll be playing against the kind of environment Georgia Tech found during Clemson's 91-80 Senior Night win on Tuesday.

Clemson has not won at Wake Forest in 20 years. (Roy Philpott)
"It's going to be really emotional for those guys," he said. "We've been talking about it all week—stick with the game plan, stick with what we do.

Despite playing before a hostile environment, Stitt's confident Clemson's solid stretch run will end on a positive note.

"We're coming together, gelling as a team at the right time. We're starting to hit our peak, but I don't think we've played up to our potential yet," he said.

Standing in Clemson's way is sophomore forward Al-Farouq Aminu and senior point guard Ishmael Smith as the most important keys to Wake Forest's success.

"(Smith) is hard to press. He's a senior playing on senior night. The obvious, big-time talent you've got to deal with is Aminu," Purnell said.

"You certainly don't expect that to happen again. The guy's a big-time talent and probably a lottery pick," Purnell said.

Clemson will attack Aminu on the offensive end, whether he's guarding Jerai Grant or Trevor Booker just to give him "something else to think about."

Aminu is complimented in the post by senior center Chas McFarland and sophomore center Tony Woods with freshmen C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart the best 3-point shooters, hitting 34 and 40 percent. The freshmen have also combined to more than half of the 3-pointers for Wake Forest this season.

Senior guard L.D. Williams is also regarded as one of the best defenders in the conference.

PREDICTION: Wake Forest 67 Clemson 62

Clemson (21-8, 9-6)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 10.9 PPG, 3.3 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 8.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 7 PPG, 4.6 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 7 PPG, 2.7 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 15.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG

Wake Forest (18-9, 8-7)
G #10 Ishmael Smith (6-0, 175) - 13.2 PPG, 6 APG
G #42 L.D. Williams (6-4, 210) - 9.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG
C #13 Chas McFarland (7-0,245) - 7.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG
F #44 David Weaver (6-11,250) - 2.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG
F #1 Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9, 215) - 15.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG

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