Clemson (5-4) vs South Carolina (6-4)
When: Sunday, December 15, 2019 - 5 PM EST
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum
How to Watch: ESPN2
With non-conference play winding down the Clemson Tigers find themselves in an early must-win matchup against in-state rival South Carolina this evening at Littlejohn. After falling to Virginia Tech in their season opener, the Tigers rattled off five straight wins, mostly against inferior opponents, before losing their last three games. Each of those losses came against a top-100 ranked team, per Kenpom.
In order to come away with the win the Tigers will need to focus their defensive efforts on shutting down the pair of young guards that powers the gamecocks backcourt - sophomore A.J. Lawson & freshman sixth man Jermaine Couisnard. They rank first and third on the team in PPG at 15.9 and 9.4 points, respectively. 6-foot-11 Senior big man Maik Kotsar sits between them at 10 PPG while also chipping in 6.1 boards a contest.
They key to the contest will be forcing the Gamecock guards into taking long jumpers and preventing easy looks in the paint. While Lawson and Couisnard are both efficient two-point scorers, neither of them has shown the ability to consistently hit the deep ball this season. Only one player on South Carolina has hit at least 40 percent of their threes this season, junior Jair Bolden a transfer from George Washington University. Bolden is averaging 9 PPG starting next to Lawson. Clemson has had a top-70 defense inside the arc, per Kenpom, which should be helpful against a team that features one of the nation’s worst attacks from deep.
On the offensive end, Clemson will need to have consistent performances Aamir Simms & Tevin Mack. When those two are humming and this offense is able to find rhythm the Tigers have shown the ability to be competitive against solid squads for stretches this season. When they struggle, things get ugly like they did against Minnesota and Florida State. One of the battles to watch in the game will be South Carolina’s many shot blockers against the Clemson offense. The Tigers are one of the nation’s more effecient bunches from inside the arc, shooting over 50 percent on such attempts, while South Carolina blocks nearly 15 percent of all opposing shots, a top-30 mark in the country.
Prediction: Kenpom sees Clemson getting back to winning with a 72-66 victory over South Carolina (70 percent confidence). This game is a pretty good matchup for Clemson, who can struggle to limit opponents from beyond the arc. South Carolina is a bad 3-point shooting team and that tends to be where Clemson can get burned. Limit the triples, play solid interior defense and pick up a home win. Let’s go Tigers.