CLEMSON, S.C. (SportsDirect Inc.) — Surprising Clemson looks to win its third game in a row against a top-20 team when it hosts No. 9 Miami (Fla.) on Saturday.
The Tigers are riding high following victories over No. 20 Louisville and No. 6 Duke while the Hurricanes are coming off a road loss against No. 11 Virginia that ended an eight-game winning streak.
After compiling a 7-6 record that included an ACC-opening defeat at North Carolina, the Tigers have responded by winning four straight conference games, including the two eye-opening victories over conference heavyweights.
“Momentum is very powerful in basketball, and in young people,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell told reporters after the Duke win Wednesday. “Our confidence is continuing to grow. Tonight we just hung in there and fought for it.”
Virginia, determined to end a two-game losing streak, outplayed Miami late to pull away for a 66-58 win.
“I told the team before the game that this is a game of who could execute better, especially down the stretch and unfortunately for us, it was [Virginia],” Miami coach Jim Larranaga told reporters after the game.
TV: 2 p.m. ESPN3, ACC Network
ABOUT MIAMI (13-2, 2-1 ACC): After being one of the nation’s most efficient offensive teams in non-conference play, averaging 85.2 points while shooting better than 50 percent from the field, the Hurricanes have struggled in ACC play – averaging 64.7 points on 41.5 percent shooting including 21.1 percent from long distance. Miami has averaged only 24.0 points in the first half of the three games and its key scorers – senior shooting guard Sheldon McClellan (16.1 points per game), senior point guard Angel Rodriguez (11.7) and sophomore backup guard Ja’Quan Newton (11.7) – have struggled in the opening 20 minutes. On the plus side, Miami’s defense has been stingy in ACC play, limiting foes to 58.7 points on 38.7 percent shooting – 22.9 percent on 3-pointers.
ABOUT CLEMSON (11-6, 4-1): Senior forward Jaron Blossomgame (team-leading 15.5 points per game, including 17 against Duke) is the team’s go-to scorer, but all five starters have made major contributions in the past two games. Junior guard Avry Holmes’ 11-of-14 foul-shooting performance was huge against Louisville while senior point guard Jordan Roper (nine assists, key 3-pointer), 6-10 senior center Landry Nnoko (12 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks) and sophomore forward Donte Grantham (16 points) all made impacts versus Duke. The Tigers don’t have a deep bench but junior center Sidy Djitte has been a force, especially on the boards where he pulls down six rebounds a game despite averaging only 14.3 minutes of playing time.
1. A big key to the Tigers’ last two wins has been their ability to get to the foul line while limiting the opposition’s free throws – they have made 44-of-57 while their foes were only 13-of-23.
2. Miami beat Clemson 56-45 in last year’s meeting at home, but the Hurricanes are just 2-6 all-time on the road against the Tigers.
3. McClellan, who entered ACC play hitting almost 50 percent of his 3-pointers, is just 3-of-16 in league play while Rodriguez is 2-of-19.
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