With Clemson off to its best start since 2008 and South Carolina coming off the first Final Four appearance in program history, their in-state rivalry clash at Clemson on Tuesday should be a hot ticket. But both coaches seem disappointed in the hype – or lack thereof – leading up to the non-conference matchup.
“(South Carolina coach Frank Martin) and I would both like to see the fan bases get behind it, get excited about it,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell told reporters. “We want to see this game be as important as it should be. It should be sold out. We’re playing our rival in a very big game.” The Tigers, who beat the Gamecocks 62-60 on the road last season, have won four straight against SEC opponents - including a 71-69 upset of then-No. 22 Florida on Saturday in which they erased a 12-point deficit in the second half. Clemson has reeled off five straight wins since its lone defeat – a 67-60 setback against Temple in the championship game of the Charleston Classic. The Gamecocks have won three straight since also losing to the Owls in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but they barely escaped with an 80-78 triumph over visiting Coastal Carolina on Dec. 9, their last game before a 10-day layoff for exams.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (8-2): The Gamecocks are tough defensively, a trademark of Martin’s teams, but they don’t have the kind of go-to scorer they boasted last season in Sindarius Thornwell. Chris Silva (13.7 points, eight rebounds) leads the team in scoring and rebounding, and veteran guard Frank Booker (11.4 points) has had the hot hand in the last two games. Freshman forward Justin Minaya (10.8 points) has scored in double figures in five straight games and six of his last seven.
ABOUT CLEMSON (9-1): The Tigers do a large portion of their scoring in the paint, which is why their 59 percent clip on 2-point field goals ranks ninth in the country. Donte Grantham (15.5 points, 5.9 rebounds) and Elijah Thomas (11.3, 8.9) both shoot better than 65 percent. All three starting guards also average double digits in points, though, with reigning ACC Player of the Week Marcquise Reed (14.6 points, five rebounds) leading the way.
1. Grantham needs 14 points to reach 1,000 in his career and join Reed, who hit the milestone against Florida.
2. Booker has made at least three 3-pointers in seven of the Gamecocks’ 10 games.
3. At least four Gamecocks have scored in double figures in seven of the team’s eight wins, while 10 have recorded 10 or more points at least once.
PREDICTION: Clemson 75, South Carolina 71