2005-06 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Clemson

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Virginia Tech (14-13, 4-10 ACC) vs. Clemson (16-11, 5-9)

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, 7:00 pm

TV: none


Special Preview Items:

If you have not attended a Virginia Tech basketball game this season, tonight
would be a good time to start, for two reasons. Number one, it’s senior night,
and Shawn Harris, Allen Calloway and Bob Ritchie will be honored before the
game. Number two, the Hokies are playing Clemson, and if the last three meetings
are any indication, you won’t see a more competitive ACC basketball game than
what you’ll see tonight.

Both teams come into this game fighting for their postseason lives. Clemson,
at 16-11 and 5-9 in ACC play, should feel pretty confident about their chances
of making the NIT. If they can defeat the Hokies on Wednesday, and then Georgia
Tech on Saturday, they will head into the ACC Tournament with hopes of making
the Big Dance. They have won two of their last three games and are coming off a
90-64 whipping of Virginia.

The Hokies are 14-13 and 4-10 in the ACC. It would take a major run for
Virginia Tech to make the NCAA Tournament, but they are still very much in the
hunt for the NIT. In all likelihood, they will need a victory over Clemson to
achieve that goal. Tech is coming off an impressive 72-61 victory over Florida
State. The Hokies played their best game since they lost to Duke back in
December, and that performance has given fans hope of a strong finish.

The first of the Clemson-Virginia Tech classics came on January 15, 2005.
Carlos Dixon stole a lazy pass from Clemson’s Vern Hamilton and took it the
distance, throwing down a dunk with 6.9 seconds remaining in the game. The
Hokies then survived a three-point attempt from Shawan Robinson and a missed
tip-in by Olu Babalola to hold on for their first ever ACC win, 59-57. It was
the beginning of a four game winning streak for the Hokies that would catapult
them to 4-2 in the ACC and send shockwaves throughout the league.

Clemson returned the favor on March 1, 2005. Babalola, a 25% three-point
shooter, nailed a three-pointer to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining. Jamon
Gordon took the inbounds pass and raced up the court, but his bounce pass was
intercepted by Shawan Robinson, who got the ball to Vern Hamilton. Hamilton
threw a long pass to star center Sharrod Ford, who dunked as time expired,
giving Clemson a 66-64 victory.

Perhaps the best game of the series came earlier this season on February 8.
The Hokies knocked off Clemson 75-74 in an overtime thriller at Clemson. Zabian
Dowdell hit the game-winning jumper with one minute remaining, and the Hokies
went on to win despite missing three free throws down the stretch. Clemson got
the last shot, but Cliff Hammonds missed a good look off the glass to end the
game.

Exactly one year after Ford’s memorable dunk at Littlejohn Coliseum, the
teams will square off once again. In many ways, the teams are mirror images of
each other. They are both undersized, quick and athletic, and they generate a
lot of turnovers and force them into points. As you can see, both teams are very
similar from a size standpoint.

Starting
Lineups

VT Starters

Clemson Starters

Name

Height

Weight

Name

Height

Weight

Zabian Dowdell

6-3
200
Shawan Robinson

6-2
180

Jamon Gordon

6-3
200
Cliff Hammonds

6-3
197

Markus Sailes

6-5
210
K.C. Rivers

6-5
210

Deron Washington

6-7
195
Julius Powell

6-7
208

Coleman Collins

6-9
235
Akin Akingbala

6-9
240

The Hokies defeated Clemson earlier in the season because they won the
turnover battle. Tech forced 25 turnovers and recorded a school-record 21
steals, while committing 16 turnovers. The Tigers generally shoot poorly, last
in the ACC in every single category. Clemson shot well against the Hokies but
cooled off in the second half, and Tech was able to win the game with turnover
margin.

Clemson shoots 41.2% from the field in ACC play, last in the conference. They
are also last in three-point shooting at 30.2%. They shoot 62.5% from the free
throw line, which is, you guessed it, last in the conference. However the Tigers
lit it up against UVA this past weekend. They shot 52.5% from the field and 45%
from the three-point line. Their only blemish was a 17-35 performance from the
free throw line (48.6%). Can they put forth that type of performance two games
in a row?

While Clemson is coming off their best offensive performance of the season,
the Hokies put forth their best defensive effort in quite some time against
Florida State, a good offensive team. The Hokies held Florida State to 43.4%
from the field and 28.6% from three-point range. Tech also outrebounded the
Seminoles 33-28 and forced 20 turnovers.

Despite being the worst three-point shooting team in the ACC, Clemson shoots
a lot of three-pointers. They have attempted 328 shots from behind the arc in
ACC games this season. That is second only to NC State in the conference.
Generally the Tigers don’t shoot well from the outside, but if they get hot
they are a very dangerous team, simply because of the number of three-pointers
they shoot. Just ask Virginia.

Shawan Robinson is a dangerous player. He struggled last season and most of
this season, but he has come on recently. Robinson is 12-of-26 from three-point
range in his last three games, but is shooting just 31.8% from downtown on the
season. He is Clemson’s leading scorer, averaging 12.1 points per game. He
only shoots 36.6% from the field, but he is 91.3% from the free throw line. That
mark leads the ACC.

Vern Hamilton has been Clemson’s version of Jamon Gordon. He isn’t a
great shooter, but he gets to the glass very well. Hamilton averages 11.8 points
per games, second on the team. He leads the ACC in steals per game, averaging
2.81 per game. Zabian Dowdell ranks second (2.33) and Jamon Gordon is third
(2.15). Hamilton is a terrible free throw shooter, hitting just 50% of his shots
this season.

Clemson’s main inside player is Akin Akingbala. He is averaging 11 points
and 7.3 rebounds per game. He shoots at a high percentage (57.2%), and many of
his points come from dunks and putbacks. Akingbala leads the team with 37 blocks
on the season. He also has 28 steals, an impressive mark for a big man.

The Hokies don’t have a rebounding advantage against the Tigers, but they
do match up better with them than against other ACC teams because of the size
similarities. Clemson is ninth in ACC play in rebounding margin, with a mark of
-3.1. The Hokies are 11th at -4.4. With their win over Florida State, VT moved
past Duke (-5) in this category and sits closely behind NC State (-4.3).

Virginia Tech still ranks first in the ACC in turnover margin at +5.5 per
game. Clemson is third with a mark of +2.71. The Tigers force a league-high 19.1
turnovers per game. However they also give the ball up 16.4 times per game,
which is frustrating for a team that makes the opponent turn it over so much. In
assist-to-turnover ration, Clemson is last in the ACC with a mark of 0.74.
Virginia Tech, at 1.07, is fourth in the ACC in this category.

If the Hokies don’t turn the ball over in this game, they will probably be
in good shape. But that’s easier said than done against Clemson. The most
important thing for the Hokies is to shoot the ball well. It is doubtful that
the Tigers will have two consecutive great-shooting games, and if VT can hit
their open looks, they will probably win at home.

Clemson is a poor road team, posting a 1-6 record on the road in ACC play.
Their lone ACC road win was at Georgia Tech. In their other road games, they
have lost to Virginia by six, Miami by 24, NC State by nine in overtime, North
Carolina by 15, Boston College by six and Wake Forest by six.

Tip-off for this critical ACC contest is slated for 7 pm. The game will not
be televised.

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