Associated Press SEC Coach of the Year Andy Kennedy doesn't look for any changes out of Clemson when his Ole Miss Rebels and the Tigers clash in the second round of the NIT in Clemson, SC, at Littlejohn Coliseum.
"We are what we are and they are what they are," said Kennedy. "It's too late in the season to change what we do and I'm sure it's the same way for them."
Kennedy expects a fast game out of Coach Oliver Putnell's Tigers, now 22-10 after defeating East Tennessee State in their NIT opener.
"Clemson is a pretty good team, with ACC players who are athletic and strong. They like to pressure all over the court," Kennedy said. "They like to play fast.
"They try to create easy offensive opportunities from their defense and play in transition."
Andy likens the Tigers to Auburn in personnel and to Tennessee in style.
"They have a lot of versatile athletes, like Auburn. But they like to play faster, like Tennessee," he assessed. "The key for us will be to withstand the heat of their pressure and to execute.
"At this stage of the season, it's going to boil down to who executes what they do the best because there will be few secrets in terms of personnel and style."
Kennedy believes both teams will play with a sense of urgency.
"We have talked to our kids about the finality of things this time of the year. Everyone still playing, in the NCAAs or the NIT, knows it's win or you pack up for the season," he noted. "You have to leave everything out there or the season is done.
"There is no waiting on the next game if you don't perform in this one."
The Rebs advanced to the second round of the NIT with a 73-59 victory over Appalachian State last Wednesday in Oxford. Ole Miss, now 21-12, blew open a relatively close game with a 19-2 run midway through the second half via PG Todd Abernethy's 18 points, C Dwayne Curtis' 14 points and 8 boards and F Kenny Williams' first double-double since December, notching 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"It's do or die now," said the 6-8 Williams. "We want Madison Square Garden (site of the NIT Final Four). To get there, we have to win. It's real simple. We know Clemson is a good team, but we feel if we play hard and take care of business, we will be fine."
Purnell has a liberal rotation of 9-10 players he uses. Nine Tigers average more than 10 minutes per game and five avearge double figures in scoring.
Clemson will be led by 6-5 sophomore Guard K.C. Rivers, who knocks down 13.3 points per outing and also added a career-high 14 rebounds against ETSU; 6-9 junior C James Mays, who averages 12.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game; 6-0 senior PG Vernon Hamilton (12.3 ppg.); 6-3 junior G Cliff Hammonds (11.5 ppg.) and 6-7 freshman F Trevor Booker (10.1 ppg., 6.5 rpg.).
The Tigers are 3-0 against SEC competition this year. They defeated Mississippi State and Georgia, by 15, at Clemson and trounced South Carolina in Columbia by 21.
Kennedy will be trying to shake the Rebels out of late-season road woes after poor showings at South Carolina and Alabama.
"We were more competitive on the road prior to those games, but we lapsed in those. I don't want that to be the taste in our guys' mouths when we tipoff against Clemson," he closed. "I know we have a formidable task on our hands, but we are excited about the opportunity to extend our season and keep playing."
The Rebs will counter the Clemson attack with the "usual suspects" - senior PG Todd Abernethy, senior G Bam Doyne, senior G Clay Sanders, junior C Dwayne Curtis and junior F Kenny Williams. Freshman Eniel Polynice, F Jermey Parnell and G Bryan Smith will be the main reserves.
The last time Clemson, who holds a 2-1 series edge, and the Rebs met was in the 1982 NIT. Carlos Clark's 25 points led the Rebels to a 53-49 win.
The game will be shown on ESPN (regular, not unleaded).