Clemson rolls into its ACC opener at home Saturday against North Carolina State on a seven-game winning streak, and the Tigers’ defense has led the way to 11 victories in 12 games to start the season. Clemson, which allowed 71.4 points per game a season ago, ranks 21st in the country in scoring defense at 62.7 points per game, and has surrendered 60 points or fewer four times during its current winning streak.
“This offseason we really worked on our defensive discipline, and really worked on guarding one-on-one and our communication,” Clemson forward Donte Grantham told reporters after the Tigers defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 89-60 in their final non-conference game Dec. 22. The Wolfpack also enjoyed a strong pre-ACC start to their season, winning 10 of their first 13 games. After an upset loss against UNC Greensboro, N.C. State struggled in an 81-69 victory over Robert Morris before blasting Jacksonville 116-64 in its last game Dec. 22. “All things considered, with all of the new guys and new pieces and the ups and downs that we’ve had, I’m excited where we’re at right now,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts told reporters after the Jacksonville victory.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra
ABOUT N.C. STATE (10-3): Guard Allerik Freeman scored a career-high 25 points in the Jacksonville victory and leads the Wolfpack in scoring at 15.5 points per outing, helping N.C. State rank 23rd in the nation in scoring offense at 86.0 points. Guard Torin Dorn is averaging 14 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds, shooting 57.9 percent from the field. N.C. State owns non-conference victories over Arizona and Penn State.
ABOUT CLEMSON (11-1): The Tigers are off to their best start since 2008-09, and Grantham is having an outstanding senior season, averaging 14.8 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 63.1 percent from the field. Marcquise Reed leads the Tigers in scoring at 14.9 points, fronting an offense scoring 78.5 points per contest and shooting 50.3 percent from the field (22nd nationally). Clemson’s only loss came to Temple on Nov. 19, but the Tigers have since posted non-conference victories over Ohio State, Florida and South Carolina.
1. The Wolfpack set a school record with 19 3-pointers against Jacksonville, and scored 100-plus points for the third time this season.
2. Grantham surpassed 1,000 career points in Clemson’s last game and recorded his fourth career double-double.
3. Clemson beat N.C. State twice in a six-day span last season, a 78-74 victory in the regular-season finale and a 75-61 triumph in the ACC Tournament.
PREDICTION: Clemson 79, N.C. State 74