Tigers head into tough first road test at Arkansas

Men's Basketball - Devin Coleman & Rod Hall

Photo by Mark Crammer

Men's Basketball - Devin Coleman & Rod Hall

CLEMSON - Rod Hall's game and stat-line doesn't quite catch the eye like fellow junior K.J. McDaniels.

McDaniels has already made ESPN's "Sportscenter" top-10 plays with highflying dunks, averaging a team-leading 17.1 points with an ACC-best 3.4 blocks per game.

But Hall, a 6-1 Augusta product, was one of the first players Arkansas coach Mike Anderson noticed preparing for Saturday's 2 p.m. tip in Fayetteville.

"I've been very impressed with him," Anderson said. "He's the leader. He settles them down."

The point guard is the only Tiger averaging over 30 minutes per game (30.4), quietly averaging double-figures (10.6) on just seven shots a contest. Hall is fourth in the ACC in assist to turnover ratio (4.6), which is why he's on the court so much.

"Nine points, four assists and no turnovers doesn't sound like a great night," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, "but it's pretty solid. (Hall plays) pretty good defense, handles the ball against press, gets the offense flowing and even when he doesn't make the assist - he's usually the guy that throws it to the guy who throws it to the (scorer).

"Little things that just makes your team play better. It's just one of those things. As a coach, that's what you're looking for - guys you trust and know they're going to do what you coach them to do."

Brownell says his calm demeanor comes in handy, as the Tigers hit the road for the first time this season.

"He does a good job of rising to the occasion," said Brownell. "Tries to make the big play or rally the troops a little bit. Just not letting the atmosphere effect his play. When things going on around are crazy, you have to still have some peace and calm, especially when you're a point guard.

"Rod's our best guy to find guys off screens and that helps (Jordan) Roper and (Devin Coleman). He's the guy who finds them for their shots. If their numbers look gaudy, he's the guy delivering the ball to them and getting us into things and getting us into better play."

Jump-starting a sluggish midweek effort against S.C. State was the redshirt sophomore Coleman, who scored 16 points in his first career start. Coming off an Achilles injury, the Philadelphia, Pa. native was scoreless in 20 minutes in Clemson's first four games, but he's averaged 13.3 points in the last three games.

"I really think he would have been our starting two-guard (last year)," Brownell said. "The way that Devin plays the game is with offensive confidence, and that's why when he catches it off the screen, it's pretty easy for him. There's just a sense that certain guys have as scorers, that he has. When he really gets locked in, that's when he plays well."

Arkansas (5-2) and Clemson (7-1) meet in about as divergent a clash in styles in college basketball.

Anderson boasts a "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" tempo that's scored at least 76 points in every game, ranking in the top-15 nationally (88.6).

The Tigers are dead-last out of 351 NCAA teams in possessions per game (61.9), and therefore it's far from coincidental they lead the nation in scoring defense (51 per game).

"They like the possession game," Anderson said. "They want the game at a slower tempo than we do. Tempo will be very important. Obviously, they have good guards and they can control the tempo with good guards."

Clemson enters one of the toughest places to play in college basketball lately, Bud Walton Arena, for the first time in program history.

The Razorbacks have won 18 in a row at home - the nation's sixth-longest streak - and 38 in a row over unranked opponents. Under Anderson, Arkansas is 39-4 at in the friendly confines with 28 double-digit victories.

Nasty weather could wreak some havoc in Fayetteville, where heavy snow accumulations and sub-freezing highs will greet the Tigers. Anderson isn't too concerned about the effect on the crowd.

"They play basketball indoors so if two teams show up we'll still play," he said. "We'll have a national audience with the game televised (CSS). I'm sure Razorback fans will find a way to get here. No question, it's evident (we) play better at home."

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