Previewing Clemson

Clemson took care of Maryland on Thursday to earn an ACC Tournament second-day matchup with the top-seeded Tar Heels. Tip-off against the Tigers at the MCI Center will be at noon and televised nationally by ESPN2 and locally by RJ. <br><br><b> <center>(<a target=new href=>Live Stats</a> ... <a href=>In-Game Chat</a>)</b></center>

No. 1 North Carolina (26-3, 14-2) vs. No. 9 Clemson (16-14, 5-11)
Washington, D.C. - MCI Center
Noon, ESPN2/RJ


"We are playing our best basketball of the season right now and have a feeling that we can beat anybody. But we also know we must prepare and focus for 40 minutes. We are not good enough to play 28, 30 or 32 minutes and win." -- Oliver Purnell

"We had a lot of turning points during the season and that (game at UNC) was certainly one of them. We got handled pretty good at (North) Carolina and with a two-day turnaround we came to Maryland and learned a lot from that. (North) Carolina is an excellent team. But the formula for us is the same. If we play good to great Clemson Basketball we have an opportunity." -- Oliver Purnell


How They Got Here: In the first game, on the first day, of the ACC Tournament, Clemson took down the defending champs. Shawan Robinson hit six three-pointers, en route to 24 points, as the Tigers shot down Maryland, 84-72, Thursday at the MCI Center -- their third win over the Terps this season. Clemson actually committed six turnovers before its first field goal, and trailed 16-6 early, but rallied and then pulled away in the second half. The Tigers forced 23 turnovers and held the Terps to 35% FG.

This Season Against UNC: The Heels played one of their worst halfs of the season to start the Jan. 19 game at Clemson, committing 16 turnovers and going into the break tied, 27-27. But in the second half, UNC took over, as the offense and defense worked in tune for a 77-58 final. Carolina forced 20 turnovers and held the Tigers to 33% FG. Rashad McCants had 23 points and six assists, while Marvin Williams contributed an important 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench. In the rematch in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels dominated from the get-go for their 51st-straight home win over Clemson. UNC led 14-1 early and went on to win easily in an 88-56 rout. Jawad Williams led all scorers with 17 points, while UNC's defense recorded 16 steals and forced 27 turnovers.

Season To Date: Head coach Oliver Purnell is still in the initial stages of his rebuilding process at Clemson, so few expected the Tigers to climb out of the ACC basement this season. And the team has showed some flashes of impressive play, though there have also been a number tough losses and some horrible performances. They had two solid non-conference wins over Ohio State and South Carolina in December, they hung with Duke at Cameron in January and then stunned Maryland in early February. Still, it was on pace to be another season at the bottom of the ACC until the Tigers rolled off wins in three of their last four conference games for a respectable 9th-place finish and a likely NIT berth. Throw in Thursday's win over Maryland -- the Tigers' first in the ACC Tournament since 2001 -- and Clemson has won four of its last five heading into Friday's game against UNC. Purnell will continue to face an uphill battle next season and beyond, but regardless of how 2004-05 finishes, there have clearly been some positive signs this year.

Outgunned: In conference games this season, the Tigers trailed their opponents in every major shooting category. Clemson shot just 41.1 percent from the field, while its opponents hit 48.0 percent. Also, the Tigers hit just 31.5 percent of their three-point attempts, while the opposition knocked down 37.8 percent from beyond the arc. And even at the free throw line, Clemson made 59.6 percent of its foul line attempts, while the other teams made 67.2 percent.

Ford Factor: With little conference -- and zero national -- fanfare, Sharrod Ford had a strong senior season with solid stats and some terrific performances, leaving his mark as one of the better big men in the conference this year. The 6-9 shotblocker is averaging 15.6 points, 8.3 boards and more than two blocks per game. After two dominating performances against Maryland, the Terps Thursday made the decision to focus their defensive attention on Ford, while letting the woeful Clemson shooters fire away from long range. That backfired, as the Tigers got many wide-open looks and shot 44% from long range.

Series History: The Tar Heels hold a 115-19 advantage in the series, dating back to 1926. The teams have faced off 13 times in ACC Tournament history, with UNC holding a 12-1 advantage -- the only loss coming in 1996.

Projected Starters:
25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 175, G, Fr.) – 10.0 ppg, 2.9 apg
 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 192, G, So.) – 6.4 ppg, 2.7 apg
32 Sam Perry (6-5, 190, F, Fr.) – 3.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg
44 James Mays (6-9, 215, F, Fr.) – 4.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg
 5 Sharrod Ford (6-9, 223, F, Sr.) - 15.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg

Key Reserves:
22 Shawan Robinson (6-2, 183, G, Jr.) – 10.2 ppg, 2.9 apg
33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 220, F, Jr.) – 6.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg
12 Olu Babalola (6-6, 242, F, Sr.) – 6.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg
15 Cheyenne Moore (6-6, 190, F, Fr.) - 6.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg

(Stats do not include ACC Tournament games.)

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Ford ... Robinson

Hamilton ... Babalola

Mays ... Akingbala

Purnell and Hammonds

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