Clemson navigated a tricky part of the schedule last week.
Not that this week figures to be a walk in the park.
The 24th-ranked Tigers welcome in-state rival South Carolina for their annual nonconference matchup on Wednesday. And this one brings a little extra attention as both teams will take the court at Littlejohn Coliseum unbeaten, meaning someone is leaving with an impressive victory in early December.
“There should be some excitement around this group of guys,” South Carolina coach Lamont Paris said of his team.
The same can be said for Clemson, which entered the national rankings this week for the first time this season. The Tigers (7-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won two road games last week, knocking off then-No. 23 Alabama 85-77 in an ACC/SEC Challenge game on Nov. 28 and then winning their league opener at Pitt, 79-70 on Sunday.
“That’s kind of been one of our strengths, having an older group,” Clemson center PJ Hall said. “I think that having that kind of experience and being able to keep our poise (is critical).”
South Carolina (7-0, 0-0) is unbeaten through seven games for just the eighth time in program history — and the first time in seven years.
“It’s a fun brand of basketball. It’s a fun group of guys to rally behind,” Paris said. “That’s what I want to stress more than anything to anyone who’s within earshot or eyeshot of this — what a group this is to rally around.”
The Gamecocks will be playing their first true road game of the season.
South Carolina has turned in notable recent results, as well. The Gamecocks made a school-record 18 3-pointers while defeating visiting George Washington 89-67 on Friday.
“There has been a lot of buildup,” Paris said. “Our guys have played and they’ve learned and they’ve gotten better and they’ve grown. It’s exciting.”
Clemson is 7-0 with at least four of the triumphs coming away from home for only the third time in program history.
Tigers guard Joseph Girard III, a graduate transfer from Syracuse, scored 25 points against Pitt. Hall had 22 points and 11 rebounds.
“We have a lot of good players,” Tigers coach Brad Brownell said. “At the end of the day, trying to put our guys in positions that they have to make plays and I’m fortunate that these two guys did. If we can keep finding ways to put them in positions to be successful more times than not, they’re going to deliver.”
Hall is averaging a team-high 21.4 points and is second on the team in rebounding at 7.6 boards per game. Girard is putting up 14.7 points per game, with 23 of his 33 field goals coming from 3-point range.
The Tigers are shooting 40.7 percent from beyond the arc. South Carolina is holding opponents to 32.5 percent shooting on long-distance attempts.
Meechie Johnson has led South Carolina in scoring in three of the past four games, and he holds a team-high average of 17.9 points per game. B.J. Mack is next at 16.7 ppg.
Last season, South Carolina won 60-58 at home vs. Clemson in what was the second game on the schedule for each team. That marked the first game in the rivalry for Paris.
–Field Level Media
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