By Will Vandervort
With one road win in the Atlantic Coast Conference firmly in place and with the opportunity to get a few more on the horizon, winning conference games at home become paramount. It’s all about holding serve.
If Clemson can hold serve at Littlejohn Coliseum this week, then making a postseason tournament becomes more than just a pipe dream. It can become reality.
“It’s early but it definitely seems to be wide open,” Clemson guard Jordan Roper said. “Right now we are focused on what Clemson basketball has to do to get a win and taking it one game at a time.”
That first game starts tonight (7:05) at home against Florida State. The Seminoles have won four straight against Clemson, dating back to the 2011-’12 season when the Tigers opened conference play with a79-59 victory in Littlejohn.
Clemson (10-3, 1-0 ACC) did not do too well holding serve at home last season. Last year, FSU (9-4, 0-1 ACC) took down the Tigers, 71-66, at Littlejohn Coliseum. It was the first conference home loss of the season. Clemson finished the year by losing its last four games at home and was 4-5 in home ACC games and 7-8 overall at Littlejohn.
The Tigers have taken last year’s disappointing home effort and has used that as motivation for this season. They have developed an attitude that they will not lose at Littlejohn Coliseum this year and so far they have held true to that.
Clemson has already matched last year’s home win total and is 7-0 at home heading into tonight’s game with the Seminoles.
“We want to finish this season undefeated at home,” forward K.J. McDaniels said. “That is something we take personally. We do not want anyone coming into our house and beat us. We are going to try and keep it that way.”
That will be a tough challenge against the Seminoles, who have won four of their last five games coming in. And if the Tigers do get past FSU, then it has the pleasure of having less than 41 hours to get ready for 16th-ranked Duke, who visits Littlejohn on Saturday afternoon.
“At home, obviously, you are more comfortable,” Roper said. “That’s where you practice. You are used to the environment. Being undefeated at home is something we take pride in and we look forward to continuing that.”
And if the Tigers can hold serve in these next two games then they will hit the road with a 3-0 conference record and another serious chance to steal a road game at Virginia Tech on Jan. 15.
“Home court advantage is definitely a real thing,” Roper said. “It is very important. Any chance you get to play at home in front of your crowd, in ACC play, it is an advantage in your favor. We want to take advantage of that this week.”