Tigers head north for Big Dance

CLEMSON – Oliver Purnell is somewhat conditioned to sweat out nerves of anticipation, excitement and the unknown when it comes to the Sunday selection show for the NCAA Tournament.

He told the gathering of Clemson season ticket holders at the watch party in the West End Zone on Sunday of those feelings that one March evening in Dayton, Ohio when his Flyers were the last team announced to that year's tournament.

"I was starting to feel a little bit like that after a couple of brackets had gone," he said on Sunday.

"We were on the bubble (then), unlike our guys here."

Clemson seemingly locked a position to the dance before the end of regular season conference play, unlike Missouri, which limps into the East Region first round matchup in Buffalo.

Missouri (22-10, 10-6) lost the final game of the regular season 77-56 to Kansas and the first round of the Big 12 Tournament 75-60 to Nebraska.

Sophomore forward Laurence Bowers has two torn ligaments in his left wrist, which will require surgery after the season. The injury was re-aggravated in practice the day before the loss to Nebraska, during which he wore a splint. He told reporters in Columbia, Mo. on Sunday that he'll play Friday.

Bowers leads the Tigers with 43 blocks, is second in rebounding, grabbing 5.6 a game and third in scoring with 10.2 a game.

Junior forward Justin Safford tore his left ACL in February and has put off surgery for a possible return this season. Missouri coach Mike Anderson said Sunday that he won't return this season.

A starter in 23 of the 28 games he's played in this season, Safford is fourth on the team with 8.6 points per game and third in rebounding with a 4.1 average. Of the 30 3-pointers he's attempted, he's made 13, a 44 percent clip that's best on the team.

This season, Missouri opponents have committed 629 turnovers (350 off steals) while Clemson's opponents have 542 (299 off steals).

Both Tigers like to press full-court for 40 minutes, run, run and run some more.

"We can simulate their pressure and they can simulate ours, because that's what both teams do," Purnell said.

Trevor Booker believes the teams' duplicate styles of play makes Friday's game an "interesting" matchup.

"We play against the press every day in practice, I'm sure they do it too," he said.

Also like Missouri, Clemson closed conference play on a loss and suffered first round upsets in their respective conference tournaments.

Clemson (21-10, 9-7) closed the regular season with a 70-65 loss at Wake Forest on Senior Night before falling 59-57 to North Carolina State four days later in the ACC Tournament.

"Perspective is important. N.C. State probably played their best game all year. They came in and conference tournaments are tough," Purnell said. "Wake, on senior night, an NCAA team, that's tough. At the same time, we won a number of those must-win games.

"At Florida State, that's a must-win. Those three games in that home stand, we had to have every one of them against really good teams."

The Tigers play at 2:45 on Friday in HSBC Arena.

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