Closer Look: Clemson

For Clemson, it's all about the finish. The Tigers have had a lead or trailed by just a single point in the final minutes of each of their three road games in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but haven't been able to steal a victory yet.

For Clemson, it's all about the finish.

The Tigers have had a lead or trailed by just a single point in the final minutes of each of their three road games in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but haven't been able to steal a victory yet.

"We're close to being a really good team on the road -- we just have to learn how to finish games," senior guard Demontez Stitt said. "You have to maintain poise in order to stay on top, especially on the road. This is when we've got to pull together."

While his team continues to learn how to get over the hump in those challenging league road games, first-year coach Brad Brownell is encouraged by the fact that each of the games was winnable.

"If it's gut-wrenching it's because you're team's playing well," Brownell said. "It's hard to be in all these games. It's hard to get to Maryland and have a shot with two seconds left to win. It's hard to go to North Carolina and be tied with six minutes to go. Our guys have done well to get to those points. We just haven't been able to finish, but I'm very encouraged by the way they're playing."

The close road defeats -- three losses by a total of 18 points -- also have put a premium on defending the home court for the remainder of the season. The Tigers, who are 10-1 at home this season, will play six of their final 11 games at home.

NOTES, QUOTES
-- Clemson's streak of holding opponents under 50 percent shooting came to an end Jan. 22 at Maryland when the Terrapins connected on exactly 50 percent of their shots in a 79-77 win over the Tigers. Clemson had held each of its first 18 opponents to 47.8 percent or less shooting -- the longest such streak since the 2003-04 season.

-- Clemson's ACC season is only five games old as of Jan. 22, but for the first time in school history the Tigers are averaging more points and shooting a higher percentage in league games than in non-conference games. The Tigers are averaging 75.4 points in ACC play after scoring at a 68.7 clip against other foes. The Tigers also are shooting 46.2 percent in the ACC after shooting 45.4 in non-league games.

-- Devin Booker has extended his range. Booker, a 6-foot-8 forward, attempted (and missed) just one 3-point shot last season as a freshman. This season he had made 8-of-21 shots from beyond the arc through Jan. 22, including a 3-for-3 performance against The Citadel on Jan. 2.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20 -- Consecutive games in which junior guard Andre Young has made at least one 3-point shot. It's the longest active streak in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're a little shorthanded and it's frustrating. When we feel like we're starting to make some progress, somebody goes down." -- Clemson coach Brad Brownell on recent injuries to guards Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
--vs. N.C. State, Jan. 25
KEY MATCHUPS:
The home court should loom large in this one -- Clemson is 10-1 at home this season while N.C. State entered the week just 1-5 on the road. And after losing three ACC road games already, the Tigers should be eager to return to the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum for both games this week. "Other teams are defending their home court," Clemson senior Demontez Stitt said. "Now we've got to do the same."

--vs. Florida State, Jan. 29
KEY MATCHUPS:
Revenge should be motivation enough in this rematch. The Tigers led the Seminoles by two points with 3:37 to play in Tallahassee, Fla., in their ACC opener on Dec. 12, but were outscored 16-8 down the stretch to let the victory slip away. This time the Tigers will have to do a better job of getting a hand in the face of FSU guard Deividas Dulkys, who burned them for 17 points, including a trio of 3s, in the first meeting.

FUTURES MARKET: DeAndre Hopkins continues to make the transition from football to basketball. The freshman guard, who joined the team on Jan. 5 following a record-setting season as a wide receiver for Clemson's football team, saw his first meaningful action in the Tigers' game at Maryland on Jan. 22, playing three minutes late in the first half.

Hopkins, a 6-foot-2 guard who was a three-time All-State basketball player in high school, appeared much more comfortable on the court than he did in his first appearance in two minutes of mop-up play on Jan. 12. "He's doing better," Brownell said. "He still hasn't picked up a lot of what we're trying to do in some ways, but I think he's feeling more comfortable with playing basketball again."

PLAYER NOTES
-- Sophomore F Devin Booker produced "the best game since he's been at Clemson" in the Tigers' 79-77 loss at Maryland on Jan. 22. Booker scored 11 points -- including nine straight during a key second-half stretch -- and added 11 rebounds for his first career double-double. The 11 rebounds were a career high.

-- Junior G Tanner Smith had made 50 consecutive starts over the past two seasons before missing the Jan. 22 game at Maryland with an injury. Smith suffered a sprained MCL midway through the first half of the Tigers' 75-65 loss at North Carolina on Jan. 18, but is optimistic that he could return to action as early as this week, when Clemson hosts N.C. State and Florida State.

-- Junior G Bryan Narcisse made his first start of the season at Maryland on Jan. 22, replacing the injured Tanner Smith. Narcisse was unable to match his surprising 10-point outing in the previous game at North Carolina, scoring just four points and grabbing three rebounds before fouling out.


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