Survive and advance

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Throw out the records and wipe the slate clean. It's post-season basketball in ACC country with Clemson right smack-dab in the middle of the race for this year's automatic bid.

WHAT: Clemson vs. North Carolina State
WHERE: Greensboro Coliseum (23,500) – Greensboro, N.C.
WHEN: Thursday, March 11 (9 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 7.5
TV: Raycom, ESPN 360

First-round play from the Greensboro Coliseum begins today at noon with Boston College and Virginia in the eight, nine-game. Clemson and N.C. State are scheduled to cap the four-game slate at 9 o'clock.

A win would move Clemson on to a quarterfinal matchup with No. 3 seed Florida State on Friday, again at 9.

Senior forward David Potter won't speculate beyond Thursday night as he shared March's most popular cliché with CUTigers Wednesday afternoon.

"We're just taking it one game at a time, focusing on the opponent that we have," he said. "Even though we beat them during the regular season, it's a fresh start for everybody.

"The only way they're going to be able to get into the tournament is if they win the whole thing. They're going to come out hungry."

Nearly two months ago, Clemson beat N.C. State 73-70. With a 17-point advantage by halftime, the Tigers squeaked their way through the second half, which saw Demontez Stitt go down with a mid-foot sprain.

N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe, who missed Wednesday's practice at the coliseum because of an illness, continues operating under the same steady diet of junior forward Tracy Smith and 3-point shooting.

"If you can take away Smith and their 3's, you maybe have a win right there," said Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell. "But that's hard to do. They are good shooters and (Lowe) runs some nice stuff with really good spacing. If you come off one of those guys, you've got a long way back to them. If you don't come off of them, he's so good in the low post."

"In their wins, they're shooting, like, over 50 percent from 3," he said, "and inside, Tracy Smith is a big part of their offense—it's taking those two things away." (Kevin Bray)
Smith, an All-ACC second team selection, averages 17 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

"You've got to play him early, don't allow him to his sweet spot with good timing, so that he can catch it and throw it in there," Purnell said.

There' a fine line in dropping down just enough on Smith and timing the close out to contest the perimeter shot.

Then, of course, rebounding is a must.

"Don't give them a second one because they're going to do the same thing again," Purnell said.

Senior forward Dennis Horner is second on the team in scoring (11.8) and rebounding (4.8). Junior point guard Javier Gonzalez averages 10 points and 3.8 assists a game and lead the team in 3-point shooting percentage (38). Freshman forward Scott Wood is 51-of-147 from behind the arc, both team highs.

Senior forward Trevor Booker points out a telling statistic on the Wolfpack's 3-point shooting.

"In their wins, they're shooting, like, over 50 percent from 3," he said, "and inside, Tracy Smith is a big part of their offense—it's taking those two things away."

Booker, who was named first-team All-ACC earlier this week, looks forward to the matchup with Smith.

"That's the type of player that I like to play against. It's going to be a battle down low, not only for me, but for other post players too," Booker said.

Clemson out-rebounds opponents by two per game (37-35) while N.C. State is even at 35.

Wolfpack opponents have 220 steals, compared to their total of 195. The Tigers have 289 steals in one less game (30).

PREDICTION Clemson 79 North Carolina State 69

Clemson (21-9, 9-7)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 11.2 PPG, 3.3 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 9 PPG, 4.2 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 7.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 7.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 15.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG

North Carolina State (17-14, 5-11)
G #10 Javier Gonzalez (5-11, 172) - 10 PPG, 3.8 APG
G #12 Farnold Degand (6-3, 185) - 5.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG
C #23 Tracy Smith (6-8,240) - 17 PPG, 7.7 RPG
F #31 Dennis Horner (6-9,218) - 11.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG
F #15 Scott Wood (6-6,175) – 7.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG Top Stories