By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- The Tigers are looking for their first road win of the ACC season against a very tough Virginia team tomorrow night, and senior guard Tanner Smith knows that he and his teammates will have to continue to focus on being a defensive minded team in order to pull off the upset of the 17-3 Cavaliers.
“Virginia has that kind of defense that is tough to score against,” Smith said. “They make you make shots and I think against NC State the other night you saw how difficult it is to score for 40 minutes against them. We’re going to have to do a good job of moving the ball around on them, taking good shots. We can’t get frustrated if we miss a few, we’ve got to stay confident. If we have open looks, we need to take our best opportunities and look to knock down shots.”
Virginia’s defense actually reminds Smith of their own defense in some ways, as both teams try to get into their opponents heads.
“I think so,” Smith said. “They’re known as a defensive team and have a lot of guys that are unselfishly willing to do whatever it takes to get stops. That makes it tough for you as an offensive player; they do a good job as a unit really defending. We’re going to have to make sure we move the ball around and get them out of position. We’re not going to be able to attack on the first side, they’re going to have their defense set and that’s going to be when they’re the most difficult to attack.”
Smith has a lot of respect for Virginia’s Mike Scott, calling him the best player in their league right now, and knows that the Tigers will have to do a great job defensively in order to slow him down.
“I think he is the ACC’s best player, he can score in so many different facets it’s tough to say what he isn’t good at,” Smith said. “He’s got a deadly fade away jump shot that you just can’t block; he’s athletic so he can get to the rim. He rebounds well and plays good defense. It’s weird to see a guy so talented and so unselfish and willing to do whatever needs him to do. So he’s a really good player and we’re going to have our hands full, just as they defend as a team we’re going to have to do that too and guard him as a team.”
Smith enjoys playing in the 45-40 defensive battles, however he
“It’s always a little different,” Smith said. “We know that we’re a defensive team, they know that they are a defensive team. We need to not get frustrated on the offensive end, sometimes that’s gotten us into trouble this year where we haven’t scored for a few possessions and that affects our defense because we’re not locked in and they score. We can’t do that, if we’re not going to be able to execute on the offensive end, which we might not be able to, we’re going to have find a way to get into a rhythm like we did against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. We need to realize that it’s a long game but we can’t let up on the defensive end. They have a lot of fire power; we’ll have to do a good job.”
After losing two close games against Boston College and Miami earlier in the season, the Tigers are in dire need of a road win, and with six of the Tigers’ next ten games on the road, they’re becoming more and more important.
“We need some road wins, we lost one at home against Duke so we’ve already lost the home court edge where if we won all of our home games and didn’t win any road games we’d be at .500,” Smith said. “We need to win a couple on the road, which is tough in the ACC, especially against a team like Virginia that has a couple of good players, and their gym is going to be electric. Just going in and trying to execute the best we can.”
“Every possession counts and we’ve lost a lot of one possession games and have won a few,” Smith said. “We’ve learned the lesson this year that every possession is important. I think we’ve done a good job of protecting the ball this year, knock on wood our turnovers haven’t been too bad. We’ve been getting shots, but defensively we’ve had a few slip ups every once and a while, we can’t have that happen against Virginia because they’ll make us pay. We have to remember going in to focus on every possession because at the end of the game we don’t want to look back and wish you had one or two possessions back.”