The Clemson Tigers (14-1) (3-0) return to the hardwood on Thursday night and put their 10-game winning streak on the line as they travel to the PNC Arena to take on the NC State Wolfpack (11-5) (1-2) to wrap up the regular season series between the Tigers and Wolfpack for the 2017-2018 season. The Tigers and Wolfpack met earlier this season on December 30th in Clemson where the Tigers cruised to a 78-62 victory on a night where NC State hit only 5 of their 22 three-point attempts.
The Tigers will enter PNC Arena on a high note as they are 3-0 in the ACC for the first time since the 2006-07 season and have risen to 19th in the AP Poll and 17th in the Coaches Poll thanks to their stellar non-conference victories and quick ACC start. Much of the Tigers success can be attributed to the consistent presence of Marcquise Reed who continues to lead the Tigers in scoring with 15.9 points-per-game, and against quality opponents. In recent games against South Carolina, NC State, Boston College and Louisville, Reed is averaging 21.0 points in these contests. Much of the Clemson early season success appears to come from a return of the Brad Brownell defensive mindset. With recent quality defensive performances against Louisville, BC and NC State, Clemson has dropped its points allowed per game to 63.5, which is good for 21st overall in the country.
NC State enters the contest fresh off a shocking 96-85 upset of #2 Duke which showed that while NC State doesn’t necessarily have one player who will flat out beat you, they have many who can put in game clinching efforts as 6 of the 8 players who took the floor for the Wolfpack scored in double digits. The one player that does appear to be emerging as a scoring threat for NC State appears to be Freshman Braxton Beverly. Braxton, who appeared to be very one dimensional as only a three-point threat, showed the country that he is more than just a spot up shooter on Saturday as he managed to get to the free-throw line six times while dishing out five assists. Beverly, who has made 12 three-pointers in his last four games has the ability to break a game open with his shooting.
NC State is very similar to Clemson in many ways, including the keys to winning this upcoming contest. I don’t expect NC State to go 5-for-22 a second time against the Tigers from three-point range. What I do expect is that the guards are going to put up their typical numbers. Beverly is going to hit at least two three-pointers, Torin Dorn is going to put up double figures with over five rebounds, and Allerik Freeman is more than likely going to lead them in scoring. This game comes down to preventing the NC State big men Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven from having an impact on the game. We saw Abu get into foul trouble in December and Yurtseven was held in check, and that is the difference between NC State being a 70-point team and an 85-point team. Unless Clemson wants to be in a shootout, which is never ideal on the road in the ACC, keep control of these two and you give yourself a chance to pick up a coveted ACC road win.