After an impressive non-conference performance, the Clemson Tigers (11-1) will open ACC play against the NC State Wolfpack (10-3) at Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. NC State has historically owned the matchup between the two schools, winning 101 of the 153 games played (including a 33-32 record at Clemson) but the Tigers have had the upper hand as of late. The Tigers posted two victories last season including a 4-point win at Clemson, immediately followed by a 14-point victory in the ACC Tournament to end the Wolfpack’s season.
Much has been said of Clemson’s defensive resurgence after the return of David Skara as the Tigers have given up only 59 points-per-game since his return, and we will find out a little more about the Tiger defense on Saturday as North Carolina State is an offensive minded program. NC State currently averages 86 points-per-game which is currently 4th in the ACC (behind Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina) and 23rd in the country overall.
The Wolfpack are led by Graduate Student Allerik Freeman. The Baylor transfer is currently averaging 15.5 points-per-game and 4.8 rebounds-per-game to pace the NC State offense. Freeman is paired with backcourt mate Torin Dorn, a Junior who is averaging 14.0 points-per-game and 7.6 rebounds-per-game as well. The weakness of the Wolfpack throughout this season has been the defense. NC State is allowing 70.0 points-per-game, which is 129th in the country and is tied for 82nd in the nation in rebounding with 38.6 per game.
The Tigers will counter with a powerful backcourt duo of their own with Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell. Reed leads the Tigers in scoring with 14.9 points-per-game and has averaged 19.75 over the past four games. Mitchell averages 12.6 points-per-game on the season and has found his three-point shot as of late and runs the Clemson offense averaging 4.5 assists-per-game. Elijah Thomas has continued to be one of the most consistent players in the country as he is one of five players in the country averaging at least 11.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks while shooting at least 60.0% on the season.
The key in Littlejohn on Saturday will come down to the offensive rebounding battle, which may have very little to do with the Centers/Forwards on the court. Saturday will treat us to two of the best rebounding guards in the conference as Dorn will go head-to-head with Gabe DeVoe. NC State’s starting backcourt averages over 12 rebounds-per-game, and is one of the main reasons the NC State offense is so effective with multiple second chance possessions. If Donte Grantham can use his superior athleticism (6.8 rebounds-per-game) to limit the second chances for the Wolfpack, the Tigers will put themselves in position to win this game.
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