By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
In tennis, holding serve is one of the more important aspects of the match. If one can hold his service game long enough, his opponent will eventually crack under pressure and will lose his, thus giving the other a break, which can lead to winning a set, which could lead to winning the match.
Playing basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference is a lot like playing tennis. If you can win all of your home games and then steal one or two on the road in the process, then that team is ultimately going to put itself in position to win the match or in this case maybe earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament in March.
Clemson is trying to get back on serve. Down a break thanks to a, 71-66, loss to Florida State at Littlejohn Coliseum on Jan. 5, the Tigers are in Tallahassee tonight for an 8:05 tip.
“They got us the first time so we know what we need to change and what we need to do to actually beat them this time,” Clemson center Devin Booker said. “It is definitely going to be big for us. Anything can happen. You saw Wake beat NC State so we can definitely get a road win and it would be great on our resume.”
To get that road win, the Tigers (10-7, 2-3) will need to get off to a good start and play with the same energy as Florida State.
In the first meeting, the Seminoles (10-7, 2-2) came out on fire, while building a 24-9 lead before Clemson even knew what hit it. Though the Tigers crawled back in the game and got within four points late, they could never overtake the ‘Noles as they walked out of Littlejohn with a rare road victory in the series.
That Florida State game isn’t the only one Clemson has gotten off to a slow start in. Bad opening halves against Purdue, Arizona and at NC State last Sunday, came back to haunt the Tigers.
“This is an interesting bounce back game for our guys,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “I certainly think we played well most of the game against NC State. It will be a challenge to get our motor going again and play a team that uses their athleticism, their energy and their speed to affect the game.
“If you don’t go into this game really ready to play, you are going to have problems. So this will be a great test for us as we get back after it and get our motor going and really being ready to compete because in watching Florida State and in some of the games they have won, they have a couple of guys in Okaro White and Michael Snaer that out-compete people.”
The good news for Clemson is that Jan. 5 was just 19 days ago so they still have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to have to in order to steal a game at the Tucker Center.
“I was thinking about that the other day,” Booker said. “We kind of have an advantage now since we know what we are going up against.”
So do the Seminoles. Their goal will be to slow down Booker, who right now is running through the conference while averaging 17.0 points and 9.8 rebounds in ACC games. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound native of Whitmire, SC is coming off a 27-point, 6-rebound performance at NC State.
Booker made 13 field goals against the Wolfpack, the most by a Clemson player since Elden Campbell had 13 against Mercer in 1987. Booker opened the ACC season with 19 points and 11 rebounds against Florida State.
“To think that he made 13 field goals in a game, that’s hard to do,” Brownell said. “You usually don’t score 27 points on 13 field goals. That’s usually a big free throw night where you hit seven or eight free throws, and he scored 27 without doing that. He played very well. He worked it. He got some on his very own.”
And Booker will more than likely have to do it again tonight. If he can deliver that forehand winner down the line at the Tucker Center, it will probably allow Clemson to get back on serve in what is turning out to be quite a tennis match on the road to the ACC Tournament.