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November 16, 2013

Hoops preview: Clemson

South Carolina (1-1) at Clemson (2-0)
When: Sunday at 5 p.m.
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,000)
TV: None
Tickets: Clemsontigers.com
Series USC leads 88-75

It's an axiom in sports that you can't get too high after a win or too low after a loss. The danger is you run the risk of losing focus and, particularly after a tough loss like the 66-64 setback at No. 25 Baylor Tuesday, having one loss possibly beat you twice.

With the second consecutive road game today and one against South Carolina's rival, head coach frank Martin knows the danger he faces, especially with a team so young.

"We can be playing Clemson or my high school team in 1986 - if we're not focused, we're not going got play well," Martin said. "We're going to find out. That's the thing with this team. We have a lot of guys we're getting ready to deal with a first as this season unfolds.

"So we, including me, have to learn how to handle things the season throws at you. That's the great thing about having an experienced team. You know what's going to happen that next day whether you played well, bad, indifferent, whatever.

"We don't know that. All this is new to us."

Martin said he was pleased with the way the team handled the Longwood win with a strong Sunday practice, but wasn't as happy with his team's practice after the Baylor loss.

"We weren't bad, but we weren't as enthusiastic as I'd like to see a team after a loss," Martin said. "That's a first. Now I have to figure out why. I have to try to help these guys. Probably (it was) because we had a day off after the loss, so that kind of sits in your gut.

"The great thing about sports is when you lose, to get back on the floor. The longer it takes you to get back on the floor, the longer that negativity about losing sticks in your gut. So maybe next time we have a break between games we need to practice that next day to get it out of our system."

Against Clemson, which is 2-0 after wins over Stetson and Delaware State, Martin knows he'll be facing a tenacious defensive team.

"Brad (Brownell) doesn't want to give you anything easy," Martin said. "They don't play as aggressive on offense because they want to minimize turnovers and shots early in the shot clock, which is intelligent.

Shooting early in the shot clock against a set defense isn't very intelligent. That's something we have to continue to teach guys. We have a saying, 'Shoot it early, shoot it late.' That means attack it early, and if the defense sets, have some patience.

"Brad's teams don't make mistakes. They don't turn it over. They make you play through their defense, so you have to be disciplined whenever you go through their defense. Guys have to set screens the right way. Cuts have to be the right way. Ball movement has to be good. Then whenever you do get a crack, you have to figure out to take advantage of it."

Three keys to victory
Bounce back - Responding to adversity will be perhaps be a bigger challenge than Clemson will be. This game will be a big test to see how the new-look Gamecocks handle stress and do it on the road and against an arch-rival, no less. What's this team's internal make-up? We'll see today.

Move around - Sounds simple, but at times against Baylor the offensive guys looked downright planted and lost. As Martin said, "movement off the ball is as important as movement of the ball. South Carolina will need to improve that area of its half-court offense today to be able to establish patterns for success down the road.

Box out - Again, sound simple, but Martin said not boxing out was the killer at Baylor, with three of Brady Heslip's five 3-pointers coming after offensive rebounds. For a team like Clemson likely to struggle offensively, it's imperative not to give them second-chance points that not only can lead to points but also momentum at home.

USC Notes: Clemson has won seven of the last 10 meetings between the schools Today's game is the third of four games away from home Freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell posted the first 20-point game of his young career, while forward Demetrius Henry posted nine points, six rebounds and two blocks in the contest the Gamecocks committed just eight turnovers at Baylor, the fewest for Carolina since committing seven at Kentucky on Feb. 5, 2013 USC won just two away contests combined during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. The Gamecocks look for their first non-conference road win at Clemson on Sunday since a 58-55 win, also at Littlejohn Coliseum, on Dec. 4, 2011.

Clemson Notes: The Tigers enter Sunday's contest with a 2-0 record after defeating Stetson by 20 points in the season opener on Nov. 8, and most recently posting a 58-37 victory over visiting Delaware State on Wednesday ... Clemson head coach Brad Brownell in his fourth season... Junior forward K.J. McDaniels paces the squad with 15.5 points per game, while junior guard Damarcus Harrison is the only other Tiger averaging double-figures with 12.5 per outing... McDaniels also paces the squad with 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game... McDaniels is Clemson's leading returning scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker; he led the ACC with 2.0 blocks per game last season... Clemson was 8-7 in homes games last season and is a perfect 2-0 in games played at Littlejohn Coliseum in 2013-14 ... Following Sunday's game vs. the Gamecocks, Clemson will travel to the Charleston Classic next weekend, facing Temple in its first contest at the event.

Probable starting lineups:

10 Duane Notice 5-11 Sr. G
4 Ty Johnson 6-3 Jr. G
0 Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Fr. G
24 Michael Carrera 6-5 So. F
21 Demetrius Henry 6-9 Fr. F

Next game: USC hosts Florida International Sunday, Nov. 24, at 1 p.m.

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