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February 11, 2014

Preview: Clemson vs. Notre Dame

Untitled Document

Game 25: Clemson (15-7, 6-4) @ Notre Dame (12-12, 3-8)
Date: Feb.11, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
TV: Regional Sports Network
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Clemson, S.C.
2012-13 record: 13-18 (5-13 in ACC)
Famous alumni: Strom Thurmond, former governor, senator from South Carolina; William “Refrigerator” Perry, defensive lineman on the Super Bowl XX-winning Chicago Bears; Jimmy Key, former major league baseball pitcher; Horace Grant, uncle of Irish basketball player Jerian Grant.

Head coach
Brad Brownell (4th year at Clemson) - Brownell, 45, is in his 12th year as a head coach, compiling a 233-137 overall record. After assistant-coaching stints at Evansville (his hometown), Indianapolis and UNC Wilmington, Brownell landed his first head-coaching position at UNC Wilmington, where he was 83-40 in four seasons, including two NCAA appearances. Brownell served at Wright State for four seasons, where he was 84-45, including one NCAA tournament. He took the Tigers to the NCAA tournament in his first season at Clemson with a 22-12 overall mark (tied for fourth in the ACC). The Tigers were 29-33 his next two seasons, finishing seventh and 11th in the conference. Clemson is currently tied for fifth in the ACC.
 
You should know
That the Tigers have scored more than 61 points in an ACC game just once in 10 tries, and that came in a 72-59 victory over Duke on Jan. 11. In Clemson’s other nine conference games, the Tigers are averaging 51.7 points per game. They scored 41 points in a home loss to Florida State, 43 points in road loss at Pittsburgh, 45 points in a home victory over Georgia Tech and 44 points in a road loss to Syracuse…On the flip side, Clemson is a clampdown defensive basketball team, limiting opponents to 55.1 points per game on the season and 58.0 in conference play. The Tigers are first overall in the ACC in scoring defense, field-goal percentage defense (.381), three-point defense (.271), and blocked shots (6.0), although the numbers diminish in ACC play…Clemson is currently tied for fifth (with North Carolina) in the ACC with a 6-4 mark in conference play. Tonight’s road game will be the sixth in their last eight games. The Tigers have lost three of five - by 33 points at Pittsburgh, by 18 points at North Carolina, and by 13 points at Syracuse. Their two wins during that span were at Florida State and a home win against Georgia Tech in which the Tigers scored 98 points - combined.

Players lost
C-Devin Booker (13.1 ppg., 7.5 rpg.), F-Milton Jennings (10.2 ppg., 6.4 rpg.)

Top players
F-K.J. McDaniels (6-6, 200, Jr.) - Clemson’s top returning scorer (10.9 ppg., in 2012-13) and rebounder (5.0 rpg.). McDaniels averages 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this year. No other Tigers scores in double figures. He has scored at least 20 points in eight games, including 24 in the victory over Duke and 26 in the victory at Florida State. Has recorded five double-doubles, including 24-10 against Duke, 15-12 versus Wake Forest, and 19-10 at Syracuse. An 86.0 percent shooter (86-of-100) from the free-throw line. Also leads the team in offensive rebounds (52), three-pointers made (27), steals (24), blocks (57) and turnovers (51).
 
Brey on Clemson
“You’re playing a team that can really defend. These guys really guard you. We’re going to have to take care of the basketball, and they’ve got shot-blockers back in the paint. They don’t really score it a whole bunch, but they guard the heck out of you.”

Inside the Irish
Notre Dame and Clemson will square off for the first time this evening at Purcell Pavilion. The Tigers are the only ACC team the Irish had never faced heading into the season. Notre Dame played Wake Forest once before the Jan. 19 game at Purcell Pavilion and Florida State once before the Jan. 21 clash in Tallahassee…For the first time since the 2005-06 season, the Irish have lost five times at home. Notre Dame is 11-5 at Purcell Pavilion, including 3-3 in ACC play. The Irish were 12-5 at home in 2005-06 and 13-5 in 2004-05…Known for their high assist-to-turnover ratio under Mike Brey, the Irish have slipped in ACC play. Notre Dame has 143 assists and 122 turnovers in 11 conference games…Junior Pat Connaughton, all 6-foot-5 of him, leads the ACC in defensive rebounds in conference play with 6.5 per game. He has had 10 or more rebounds in six games this season.

Prister’s Take
Tonight’s game concludes a four-games-out-five home stretch for the Irish. Notre Dame has been unable to capitalize at the normally friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion. The Irish are 1-2 at home in that stretch with losses to Virginia and North Carolina, and an overtime victory over Boston College.

Meanwhile, Clemson will be happy to get off the road as this concludes a stretch of six games out of eight away from Littlejohn Coliseum. Yet contrary to the Irish, who are still looking for an ACC road win in five tries, the Tigers are 3-3 away from home, including an unexpected win at Florida State on Feb. 1.

The Tigers have made a surge this season under fourth-year head coach Brad Brownell, who won at stops at UNC-Wilmington and Wright State before heading to Clemson. Brownell made three NCAA tournament trips in eight seasons (four at each) before leading the Tigers to a 22-12 overall mark and an NCAA bid in his first season at Clemson. The next two years were rough - 29-33 overall and 13-21 in the ACC - but this year has been a significant improvement record-wise if not from a consistency standpoint.

Clemson has lost three of its last five by 33, 19 and 13 - all on the road - to Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Syracuse. The competition loosens up considerably tonight against the Irish, although the fact that Notre Dame is favored by a handful of points indicates just how vulnerable the Tigers are.

As good as Clemson can be defensively, the Tigers are equally bad offensively - even worse than the struggling Irish. In conference play alone, Clemson is 15th in scoring, 15th in assists and 14th in field-goal percentage. Notre Dame certainly doesn’t have a clampdown defense, but it is an opportunity for the Irish to have some success on the defensive end against the Tigers, which is a rarity these days.

The Tigers have some length and shot-blocking ability (132 on the season), which contributes to their defensive prowess. Only one opponent - North Carolina - has scored 80 points against Clemson this year. The opposition has scored less than 60 points in 15 out of 22 games. Overall, opponents are shooting .271 from three-point range and .381 from the field against the Tigers.

In other words, neither team figures to score a whole bunch tonight at Purcell Pavilion. In fact, the first one to 60 almost undoubtedly wins. For those who say it’s “painful” to watch Notre Dame play this season, the Tigers will give the Irish a run for their money in ugliness.

And so while many can’t conceive of a Notre Dame victory anywhere on its remaining schedule - particularly with three road games on tap and four of the last six away from Purcell Pavilion - tonight is one of its two best opportunities (along with Georgia Tech on Feb. 26).

Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament hopes are gone, but they need to reach .500 for an NIT bid, and a victory tonight would be significant while still likely leaving the Irish short by the regular-season finale on March 3.

Say what you will about Mike Brey teams, but they don’t give up. While most also-ran ACC teams are getting hammered by 20-plus points, the Irish have remained competitive. They find a way to scratch out an ugly one at home, perhaps even by a semi-comfortable margin.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 4 ½
Prister’s Prediction: Notre Dame 60, Clemson 54
Prister’s record: 15-9 straight up; 7-14 vs. points





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