2008-09 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. #12 Clemson

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#12 Clemson (17-2, 3-2 ACC) at Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)

Thursday, January 29, 2009, 7pm

TV: ESPN2


Special Preview Items:

Coming off two huge road wins against Wake Forest and Miami, Virginia Tech
returns to the friendly confines of Cassell Coliseum for a big Thursday night
game against #12 Clemson. The Tigers present a tough challenge. They are 17-2 on
the year, and they’ll bring a unique style of basketball to Blacksburg.

The Hokies have currently won five games in a row, and nine of their last 10.
This is the hottest a Virginia Tech team has ever been under Seth Greenberg. The
Hokies have never won nine of 10 games under Greenberg, until now. If they
defeat Clemson on Thursday night, it will mark the first time Greenberg has won
six consecutive games at Virginia Tech.

However, it will take a top notch effort to beat Clemson. They have just two
losses on the year, to Wake Forest and North Carolina. The Tigers stomped a good
Miami team into the ground, 91-72, on the road. Defensively, they will bring
pressure the entire length of the court. They will trap, bring straight up
pressure, and basically do anything they have to do to force turnovers.

Here is the starting lineup for the Tigers.

Clemson
Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG Assists
G
Demontez Stitt
6-2 175 So. 8.2 2.4 66
G
Terrence Oglesby
6-2 190 So. 13.7 1.9 32
F
K.C. Rivers
6-5 215 Sr. 13.8 6.4 28
F
Raymond Sykes
6-9 220 Sr. 8.3 5 9
F
Trevor Booker
6-7 240 Jr. 14.4 8.8 38

Though Clemson doesn’t have a superstar on their team, they have quite a bit of
balance in their starting lineup. Any of those players, particularly Oglesby,
Rivers and Booker, is capable of blowing up on any given night.

Oglesby is one of the top three-point shooters in the ACC, arguably the best
overall. He is shooting exactly 40% from the outside on the season. Oglesby has
terrific range, and like Jack McClinton of Miami, he doesn’t need much space.
He’s got a quick release, so if he gets any kind of separation at all he is
ready to put up the shot.

Last season Oglesby dropped 17 points on the Hokies. He hit four big
three-pointers over a four-minute span before halftime. The Tigers went on to
win the game by one point. Tech can’t afford to lose track of Oglesby in this
game. They have to deny him the basketball if they want to stop him.

K.C. Rivers is another talented outside threat for the Tigers. The senior
wing is shooting exactly 36% from three-point range this year. Rivers is an
excellent spot up shooter, though his three-point percentage has dropped a few
points this year with the line pushed back one foot.

Two years ago in Cassell Coliseum, Rivers had a field day. He finished with
22 points. He was 8-of-11 from the outside and 5-of-7 from three-point range.
A.D. Vassallo and J.T. Thompson seem to be the likely candidates to guard
Rivers.

The best overall player on Clemson’s team is Trevor Booker. Though Booker
doesn’t have the size of a traditional center, he has the game and the heart. He
likes to play with his back to the basket, and has a number of good post moves.
Booker is also a good athlete and a good shot blocker. In 19 games this year, he
has 49 blocks, tops in the ACC by nine.

Perhaps Booker’s best attribute is his rebounding ability. He is relentless
on the glass, averaging nine rebounds per game in ACC play, second in the
league.

In fact, the Tigers have a talented trio of inside players. Raymond Sykes is
other starter, and he is a springy athlete with good rebounding and shot
blocking ability. He has 18 blocks on the year, and he also averages 3.2
offensive rebounds per game in ACC play. Jerai Grant (6-8, 220, So.) comes of
the bench. He has 31 blocks this year, despite playing just over 15 minutes per
game. Like Sykes, Grant also averages 3.2 offensive rebounds per game.

The starting point guard is sophomore Demontez Stitt, who started last year
as a freshman. His key free throws at the end of last year’s game with Virginia
Tech gave the Tigers a big victory. Stitt is a decent player, but he’s been
struggling some recently.

Demontez
Stitt, Recent Games
Opponent Pts. FGM FGA Assists TO

NC State
6 2 5 2 0

Wake Forest
13 6 11 3 4

UNC
4 1 7 0 3

Georgia Tech
6 0 5 5 2

Totals/Average
7.25 9 28 10 9

As you can see, Stitt has hit just one field goal over the last two games.
Freshman point guard Andre Young (5-9, 160, Fr.) is starting to steal some of
his playing time. Young has similar size to Tech point guard Hank Thorns, and
like Thorns, he’s not a great shooter. He is just 32.1% from the field this year
and just 31.8% from three-point range. However, he plays the role of point guard
very well. He has 45 assists and just 13 turnovers on the season.

Young is playing nearly 16 minutes per game. To average less than one
turnover per game as an undersized freshman in the ACC is very good.

Clemson has depth, as no one on the team averages more than 29.5 minutes per
game. Off the bench, David Potter, Jerai Grant, Andre Young and Tanner Smith all
average at least 13.2 minutes per game. Though Clemson is not very tall on the
inside, they like the tall, rangy players on the wing to run their fullcourt
press. K.C. Rivers, as well as backup wings David Potter and Tanner Smith, are
all 6-5 or taller.

VT
vs. Clemson, ACC Games Only
Clemson VT
Category Stat Rank Stat Rank

FG%
39.60% 11 46.10% 2

FG% Def.
44.30% 9 44.10% 7

3-Pt.%
33.30% 8 35.90% 5

3-Pt.% Def.
30.60% 4 34.60% 8

FT%
67.60% 8 62.70% 11

Rebounding Margin
-4 10 -0.4 8

TO Margin
+5.4 1 +1.8 4

Assist/TO Ratio
1.1 3 0.9 7

Scoring Offense
73 ppg 6 73.4 ppg 5

Scoring Defense
70.8 ppg 3 73.8 ppg 5

Average
6.3 6.2

Statistically, these two teams are very evenly matched. The Hokies have been
shooting the ball much better in conference play, but the Tigers, as usual, are
at the top of the conference in turnover margin.

With the Tigers pressing so much, be prepared to see Hank Thorns on the court
quite a bit. He played a lot against Wake Forest and Miami because those two
teams pressured the ball so much, and the Hokies needed an extra ball handler in
the game. He could end up playing even more against Clemson than he did in the
last two games.

Thorns could end up being the key to this game. Over the last two games, he
has 12 assists and just one turnover. He leads the ACC in assist-to-turnover
ratio in conference games, with a ratio of 8-of-1. The next closest ratio is
Danny Green of UNC at 2.5-to-1. That’s how good Thorns has been over the last
two games. If he can break that Clemson press, the Hokies could very well be
looking at six straight wins.

Don’t expect anything but a tight game. Here is a look at the six meetings
that have taken place between these schools since the Hokies joined the ACC.

VT
vs. Clemson Series
Season Margin Winner

2004-05
2 VT

2004-05
2 Clemson

2005-06
1 VT

2005-06
5 Clemson

2006-07
1 Clemson

2007-08
1 Clemson

Average
2

Only one game in this series has been decided by more than two points. The
last two times these teams have met, Clemson has been the victor by one point.
Even the game that Tech lost by five was very close. The Hokies led by seven
points with under four minutes remaining before Clemson went on a run to end the
game.

The ACC is all about holding serve at home, and finding a way to steal a few
wins on the road. On Thursday, Tech will be looking to protect their home turf,
while the Tigers will be looking for that big road win. It should be a great
game.

Hokie Fans: Thursday night’s game will be broadcast on ESPN2, and the
announcers will be Brent Musberger and former Indiana (and Texas Tech) coach
Bobby Knight. The game is a “blackout” game, so wear black and look
great on TV! Official blackout T-shirts can be purchased University Bookstore
and Volume II Bookstore for just $5 each, but any ol’ black will do.

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