Previewing Clemson

North Carolina opens ACC play Saturday night in Clemson. Tip-off at Littlejohn Coliseum is set for 8:15 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

North Carolina (10-3) vs. Clemson (8-4)
Clemson, S.C. - Littlejohn Coliseum
Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
ESPN (Dave O’Brien, Doris Burke)

Quotables

“It means a lot for me. It shows my hard work is paying off. My first summer being able to work out really paid off for me and now I just have to stay consistent and stay humble.” – Clemson sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame after posting his fifth double-double of the season against Robert Morris on Tuesday

"The crowd factor is always important in every game, but certainly in games like this. We can use a boost. Emotionally our guys are fragile enough at times that they need a boost from the crowd. In every great program, you're going to find a fan base that's squarely behind their team. Our sport, more than any, is affected by the crowd. I think it influences the outcome of games more than just about any sport you play, so we need that."- Clemson head coach Brad Brownell

“I think our guys are just focused on this game and what we have to do to win. Certainly, if we aren’t focused on that, then we don’t have any chance. We need to worry about these games one at a time, as cliché as it is. Obviously the quality of the teams will be outstanding, but what we’ll need to do and how we need to play will be different so I don’t think our guys will have any problem being focused on just the task at hand.” -- Brownell

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: Clemson enters Saturday’s contest with an 8-4 record. The Tigers’ season opened in depressing fashion with losses to Winthrop and Gardner-Webb after a win over Florida A&M. Brad Brownell’s squad bounced back strong against the SEC portion of its schedule, securing wins over LSU, then-No. 18 Arkansas and Auburn before dropping an instate rivalry game at South Carolina, 68-45.

Blossomgame Leading the Tigers: Redshirt sophomore Jaron Blossomgame has elevated his play this season and has scored in double figures in 11 of Clemson’s 12 games. The Alpharetta, Ga. native is averaging 13.7 points on 46.7 percent shooting and 8.6 rebounds per game. Blossomgame’s upped his scoring average to 17.0 points over his past five games. The 6-foot-7, 215-pounder averaged 4.9 points in 30 starts as a freshman.

More of the Same: Brownell has built his reputation on having a solid defensive team. Scoring struggles have also become the norm in Clemson under his direction. The Tigers rank 45th nationally in effective field goal percentage defense and 174th in effective field goal percentage. Clemson is holding opponents to 39.5 percent shooting overall while managing just 42.4 percent from the floor.

Balanced Scoring in Limited Rotation: Five Tiger starters are averaging between 9.5 and 13.7 points per game and all but one are averaging more than 30 minutes per game. Damarcus Harrison (11.0 ppg) and Donte Grantham (10.3 ppg) join Blossomgame as Tigers scoring in double figures, although only the members of the starting unit are averaging more than 4.0 points per game. Jordan Roper (4.0 ppg) and Austin Ajukwa (2.4 ppg) are Brownell’s primary options off the bench – both average 13 minutes per game – while Rod Hall is logging a team-high 32.3 minutes per game.

Turnover Woes: Clemson ranks 218th nationally in turnover margin (negative-0.6), but a closer look reveals the problem starts on the defensive end. The Tigers are tallying just 4.7 steals per game, which is good for 318th nationally.

ACC Home Openers: Clemson is 13-18 in ACC home openers, although six of those wins have come against ranked opponents. The 1979-80 UNC squad was one of those six wins.

Random Stat of the Day: The Tigers are 2-3 when winning the points in the paint statistical category. That gem is courtesy of the Clemson sports information department.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels delivered a 80-61 win on Jan. 26 at the Smith Center to improve to 57-0 at home against the Tigers. UNC built a 54-23 lead with a 30-7 run that lasted for 13 minutes. James Michael McAdoo led all scorers with 22 points and Marcus added 13 of his 15 points after halftime.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Clemson, 128-20. The Tar Heels have won 16 of 17 and 40 of 47 from the Tigers.

Projected Starters:
12 Rod Hall (6-1, 205, Sr.) - 9.5 ppg, 3.5 apg
21 Damarcus Harrison (6-4, 205, Sr.) - 11.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg
15 Donte Grantham (6-8, 205, Fr.) - 10.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg
5 Jaron Blossomgame (6-7, 215, So.) - 13.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg
35 Landry Nnoko (6-10, 255, Jr.) - 9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg

Top Reserves:
20 Jordan Roper (6-0, 165, Jr.) - 4.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg
1 Austin Ajukwa (6-6, 205, So.) - 2.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg

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