Tigers set to dance

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Though both Tigers prefer a high-speed track meet with plenty of defense, Clemson coach Oliver Purnell sees a few "subtle" differences between his team and Missouri.

WHAT: Clemson vs. Missouri
WHERE: HSBC Arena (19,200) – Buffalo, N.Y.
WHEN: Friday, March 19 (2:35 p.m.)
SPREAD: Clemson by 1.5

During Friday's NCAA Tournament first-round game with No. 7 seed Clemson and No. 10 seed Missouri, Purnell expects to face a good bit of zone defense.

"They like zoning, out of bounds, underneath," he said. "So that puts them in the zone for a few possessions right there. They can choose to go to that some."

Missouri seniors Zaire Taylor and J.T. Tiller make up one of the more formidable guard combinations in the country on the defensive end, combining for 102 steals this season, helping the Tigers to a nation-best 10.9 steals per game clip.

Tiller was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team this season and was the conference's Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.

Four other players on the Missouri roster have at least 30 steals this season, and one has 29.

Clemson's backcourt combination of Demontez Stitt and Andre Young have 97 steals between them, but only three of their other teammates have at least 30.

Simply put, Missouri is one of the top teams in the country in terms of imposing its will on the opposition.

"I think you are talking about one of the best, if not the best pressure team in the country, Missouri," Purnell said.

Demontez Stitt at Thursday's shoot-around inside HBSC Arena in Buffalo.
Purnell's assertion is that Clemson is more "low post oriented," and he's right considering junior forward Justin Safford is sidelined with a torn ACL and sophomore forward Laurence Bowers has been playing with a wrist injury that will require surgery after the end of Missouri's season.

Not surprisingly All-ACC first team selection Trevor Booker likes the advantage he'll have with Jerai Grant and his kid brother Devin, regardless of which opposing Tigers are playing or not.

Still, Booker does realize that doesn't necessarily mean walk in the park on the low block.

"They're pretty slim down low. At the same time, they're big men can guard the ball," Booker said. "They shoot decently well."

He'll continue to allow the offense work inside through him and back out to the perimeter. Just working the ball down low, he said, "definitely" gives Clemson the advantage.

Whether it's in a half-court setting or out of the press, Stitt said playing under control against a higher tempo team is key.

"They're going to try to speed you up. In the half court offense, it's important to keep your poise," he said. "Just looking at some of the teams on film that sort of kept their poise, they did a better job against Missouri and their pressure."

PREDICTION Clemson 71 Missouri 66

Clemson (21-10, 9-7)
G #2 Demontez Stitt (6-2,175) - 11.1 PPG, 3.2 APG
G #5 Tanner Smith (6-5, 220) - 8.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG
C #45 Jerai Grant (6-8,220) - 7 PPG, 4.7 RPG
F #15 David Potter (6-6,205) - 7.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG
F #35 Trevor Booker (6-7,240) - 15.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG

Missouri (22-10, 10-6)
G #4 J.T. Tiller (6-3, 200) - 8.8 PPG, 3.1 APG
G #11 Zaire Taylor (6-4, 189) - 8.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG
C #15 Keith Ramsey (6-9,217) - 6 PPG, 5.7 RPG
F #21 Laurence Bowers (6-8,205) - 10.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG
F #24 Kim English (6-6,200) - 13.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG

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