Clemson and West Virginia open the second round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday afternoon in Tampa. The game will tip at 12:15 PM on CBS.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell previewed the game with the media Wednesday afternoon.
Clemson pre-game notes:
*This will be just the fifth meeting between Clemson and West Virginia on the basketball court and the Mountaineers hold a 3-1 lead in the series that dates to the 1951-52 season. Three of the four games have been played in Morgantown and the fourth and most recent took place in the championship game of the 2007 NIT.
*The first two games of the Clemson vs. West Virginia series were played on consecutive days in Morgantown, Feb. 22-23, 1952. A 12th ranked West Virginia team defeated Clemson 88-73 and 80-69 on those consecutive days. Those were the first two games in Clemson history against a top 20 team.
* The Tigers played one of their best games ever in postseason play in winning in Morgantown in the 1994 NIT. That was a second round game and Tigers were victorious, 96-79. Devin Gray led a balanced Clemson attack with 22 points. Gray shot 9-10 from the field, Clemson’s best ever field goal percentage in a post-season tournament game, while Corey Wallace made 5-5 three-point shots, Clemson’s best ever three-point shooting game in postseason play. As a team, Clemson shot 65.4 percent from the field (34-54), Clemson’s best ever field goal percentage in a post-season tournament game. Clemson also had a +22 rebound margin.
*The 1994 NIT win over West Virginia was the final victory for Cliff Ellis at Clemson. He had announced his resignation effective at the end of the season on January 6, 1994. Clemson lost its next game in the NIT quarterfinals at Vanderbilt. Seventeen years later, Ellis is still coaching, now at Coastal Carolina.
*West Virginia won the most recent meeting, 78-73, in Madison Square Garden on March 29, 2007, the latest date on the calendar Clemson has played a game. John Beilein was the head coach for West Virginia and Oliver Purnell was the Clemson coach for that game.
*Frank Young scored 24 and De’Sean Butler added 20 points to lead West Virginia to the victory. All five Clemson starters were in double figures for the Tigers, led by K.C. Rivers with 18 and Vernon Hamilton with 16. A big difference in the game was three-point shooting as West Virginia made 12-20 and Clemson made just 6-23.
*The last time Clemson faced West Virginia, one of Clemson’s starters was freshman Trevor Booker, who had 13 points on 5-8 shooting, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. His brother, Devin Booker, will start in the frontcourt for the Tigers when Clemson plays West Virginia on Thursday afternoon.
*When Clemson faces West Virginia two of the top shot blockers in the nation will be leaders of their team’s respective defenses. Clemson’s Jerai Grant is 23rd in the nation in blocked shots per game, while West Virginia’s John Flowers is 25th. Both are at 2.4 blocks per game.
*Both Clemson and West Virginia have strong defensive numbers. Clemson is 20th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 60.9 points per game, and the Tigers are 28th in field goal percentage defense, allowing teams to shoot .400. Clemson is also 34th in the nation in blocked shots per game and 37th in steals per game. West Virginia is sixth in the nation in three-point percentage defense.
Other Team Notes
*Clemson arrived in Tampa at its hotel at 4:30 AM on Wednesday morning, March 16. It is the latest arrival from a road trip since Feb. 15, 2001 when Clemson arrived from a road trip at NC State at 5:30 AM. The Tigers flight after a 9:00 PM road loss at NC State was cancelled due to weather and the team had to bus back to Clemson from the Raleigh-Durham Airport. Clemson upset #1 ranked North Carolina in its next game.
*Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell took the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament in his first year with the program. He is one of four first-year coaches nationally to do it. The other coaches to take teams to the NCAA Tournament in their first year at their school are Steve Lavin at St. John’s, Greg Lansing at Indiana State and B.J. Hill at Northern Colorado.
*Clemson has a 12-22 record against teams currently in the Big East, including a 64-58 victory over Seton Hall earlier this year in a game played in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Clemson has played 14 of the 16 teams in the Big East. The only two teams Clemson has not played are Notre Dame and South Florida.
*Clemson has a 1-1 record against West Virginia Head Coach Bob Huggins. Clemson faced Huggins in consecutive years when he was the head coach at Cincinnati. The Tigers won the first meeting, 58-51 in a game played in the Civic Center of Anderson in Anderson, SC in December of 2002. That was the site of Clemson home games to start that season while Littlejohn Coliseum was being renovated. The following year, Cincinnati defeated the Tigers in Cincinnati, by a 79-56 score.
*Huggins and former Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden were classmates and had some of the same classes together at West Virginia.
*Clemson’s first round victory over UAB was the school’s first NCAA Tournament victory since a 65-59 win over Tula on March 16, 1997. Clemson had lost five straight NCAA Tournament games prior to Tuesday night. Clemson is now 9-10 in NCAA Tournament games in its history.
*Clemson has a 0-2 record in the St. Pete Times Forum, including an 0-1 record in the NCAA Tournament. Both games were close contests. The Tigers lost to Florida State, 67-66 in the first round of the 2007 ACC Tournament in the facility. Al Thornton made one free throw with 1.5 seconds left to give the Seminoles a victory that knocked Clemson out of the NCAA Tournament. The following year, Clemson lost to Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Tampa by a 75-69 score. Clemson had an 18-point lead in the first half of that game. Clemson senior Demontez Stitt played in that game for the Tigers as a freshman, and scored 14 points off the bench, including 4-4 from three-point range.
*Clemson has a 3-1 record on St. Patrick’s Day over the years and all four games have been played in postseason tournaments, three in the NIT and one in the NCAA Tournament. Clemson first played on St. Patrick’s Day in 1986, a 77-65 victory at Georgia. One of Clemson’s top players in that game was Horace Grant, whose nephew Jerai Grant is the current starting center for the Tigers.
One of Clemson’s greatest victories in history took place on St. Patrick’s Day, 1990. The Tigers overcame a 19-point deficit in the second half to defeat LaSalle, 79-75 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Hartford, CT. That win advanced the Tigers to the Sweet 16 of the East Regional. LaSalle was ranked 12th in the nation and had just one loss, entering that game.
Clemson then defeated Southern Mississippi, 96-85 on March 17, 1994, a victory at Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum. The following year the Tigers lost at Virginia Tech on St. Patrick’s Day in the NIT, 62-54. That is the last time Clemson played on this date.
*Clemson’s victory on Tuesday night gives Brad Brownell 22 victories in his first season at Clemson. That is the most victories for Brownell in a season since he won 23 in his first year at Wright State (2006-07). Of course Wright State is in Dayton, OH, the city where Brownell got his first NCAA Tournament win on Tuesday night.
*With the victory on Tuesday night, Clemson now has a victory in the ACC Tournament and a victory in the NCAA Tournament. This is the first time Clemson has at least one win in each event in the same year since the 1989-90 season when Clemson won one ACC Tournament game and two NCAA Tournament games. The only other year Clemson has done it is 1979-80 when Clemson won one ACC Tournament game and won three NCAA Tournament contests.
*Clemson will face a 22nd ranked (AP) West Virginia team on Thursday night. Clemson has one win over a top 25 team this year and it was a 62-44 win over a 22nd ranked Florida State team at Clemson on January 29, 2011. This will be Clemson’s first NCAA Tournament game against a top 25 team since the Tigers faced a third ranked Minnesota team in the 1997 NCAA Tournament in San Antonio. Clemson’s last win over a top 25 team in the NCAA Tournament took place on March 17, 1990, a 79-75 win over LaSalle in the Hartford Civic Center. So Thursday’s game will be on the 21-year anniversary of that victory.
*Clemson’s 70-52 victory over UAB in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was its largest margin of victory in an NCAA Tournament game. The previous best was an 83-70 win over St. Mary’s in Boise, ID in the 1989 NCAA Tournament. Clemson made 14-16 free throws in the game and the .875 free throw percentage was also the best for a Clemson team in an NCAA Tournament game. Clemson’s 10 steals were also a team best for steals in an NCAA tournament game.
*Clemson shot .520 from the field in the win over UAB and the Tigers are now 10-1 this year when they shoot at least 50 percent from the field.
*Clemson held UAB to 52 points on Tuesday night. The Tigers are now 16-1 when holding the opposition to 60 points or less.
*Clemson seniors Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt are now two of the top six winningest players in Clemson history. Grant has played in 88 victories and ranks fourth, while Stitt has played in 85 and ranks tied for fifth. The record is 93 victories by Trevor Booker and David Potter, who were seniors last year. Clemson now has 90 wins over the last four years, but Grant and Stitt have not played in all the victories due to injury. The Clemson record for wins in a four year period is 93 set from 2006-10.
*Jerai Grant had a career high 22 points on a career high 10 field goals and two free throws in the win over UAB. His previous high was 20 against Georgia Tech earlier this year on two occasions. Grant’s 22 points were the most in an NCAA Tournament game for a Clemson player since the 1997 NCAA game against Minnesota when Greg Buckner had 22 in a double overtime loss. His 10 field goals tied for the most field goals by a Tiger in an NCAA Tournament game.
*Tanner Smith tied the Clemson record for steals in an NCAA Tournament game with four against UAB on Tuesday. Smith scored 10 points and hit 4-6 shots from the field, giving him consecutive double figure scoring games. Smith had been 1-13 from the field in two previous NCAA Tournament games. Smith has made 9 of his last 15 shots from the field and has 24 points over the last two games.
*Milton Jennings scored 11 points in 17 minutes in the win over UAB and was 4-5 from the field. Jennings has scored 27 points and made 10 of his last 13 shots from the field over the last two games. Jennings has scored in double figures in three straight games and is averaging 12.3 points per game over that time period.
*Andre Young has had a 25/4 assist/turnover ratio over the last six games and has made 11 of his last 24 three-point shots.
*Both Stitt and Grant have recorded career highs recently. Stitt had 25 against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals and Grant had his career high 22 in the win over UAB. Stitt did it in his 124th career game and Grant did it in game number 126 for him.
*Stitt needs just two points to move ahead of Vince Yockel into the top 15 in Clemson history in career scoring. Stitt has 1349 points and Yockel had 1350 between 1955-58. Stitt needs just 17 to move into 14th place ahead of Stan Rome, who scored 1365 from 1974-78. Stitt made is 110th career start against UAB in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. That is tied for fifth in school history with Tree Rollins.
*Either Grant or Stitt have led Clemson in scoring in 18 of the last 20 games. Stitt had scored at least 14 points in 10 straight games prior to Tuesday night when he scored just seven.