When: Saturday, 4:00pm
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
How to Watch: Streaming on ACC Network Extra & WatchESPN
With final exams in the rear view mirror, the Clemson Tigers (5-2) return to the hardwood to take on the Mercer Bears (5-4) from the Southern Conference. While the teams have met 10 times in their programs history, it will be the first meeting between the two since 1994. Clemson holds only a 6-4 series lead, but has taken the last six games from Mercer. Mercer has defeated the last three ACC teams that it has faced with wins over Duke in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Georgia Tech and Florida State.
The Tigers are coming off their most dominant win of the season, a 85-43 drubbing of winless Coppin State in Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday. Jaron Blossomgame led the way for the Tigers with 15 points, but the story for Clemson was the overall balance of the team. 4 Tigers finished with double figures, and two more were a basket away as Clemson shot 54.1% from the field in a 40 minute performance. Sophomore transfer Shelton Mitchell will be coming off of his first start as a Tiger, and his best performance scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting and showed an above average ability to get to the basket and use his left hand. Barring injury, I expect Mitchell to be running the point from here on out.
With so much depth at the guard position, Head Coach Brad Brownell appears to still be attempting to find the guard pairings that mesh well with each other. Brownell appears to be favoring pairing Mitchell with Marquise Reed, and Gave DeVoe with Avry Holmes with the thought process of utilizing the attack first mentalities of Reed and DeVoe with the point guards on the roster. Clemson will once again enjoy the size advantage over Mercer so expect the offense to run through Blossomgame. Center Sidy Djitte is averaging 10.4rpg and should have his way on the boards again, especially offensively where he sparks the Tiger offense, producing multiple second chance opportunities.
Mercer will enter Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday afternoon and will not be intimidated. Mercer has played a challenging schedule in the beginning of the season, in which coach Bob Hoffman stated might be the toughest he has faced in his nine years at Mercer. Mercer has faced the likes of Florida, Akron, George Mason, and a similar opponent in Davidson. (All losses for the Bears) Clemson has relied on turnovers to spur the offense in its recent winning streak (forcing 22 against Coppin State and 17 against Nebraska) but is something that we can’t expect the Tigers to rely on Saturday afternoon as the Bears are ranked 29th in the nation in turnovers, averaging only 11.2 per game.
Mercer enters the contest following a walloping of Division III Oglethorpe, and their makeup will be consistent with Clemson’s previous two opponents as the Bears are a guard heavy offense, with little offensive threat coming from their forwards and Centers. Mercer is led in scoring by Wichita State transfer, Junior Guard Ria’n Holland. Holland is averaging 18.4ppg, and has gone over 15 points in 7 of his 8 games this season. Something to keep an eye on when Mercer has the ball is their ability to shoot, especially from behind the arc, and get the ball to the hot hand. Clemson will want to keep a hand in the face of Junior Guard Demetre Rivers who is shooting 42.9% from behind the arc and has hit 11 on the season, including 5 in the blowout win against Oglethorpe.