Battle of young teams in Clemson's ACC opener with FSU

Tigers ride some momentum going into home ACC opener with defending conference champs

K.J. McDaniels

Photo by Mark Crammer

K.J. McDaniels

CLEMSON — After 12 games that include eight victories, four losses and a modest two-game winning streak, the Clemson Tigers hit the reset button on their 2012-13 season when they begin ACC play at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Florida State (8-5) provides the opposition starting at 4:06 p.m. Saturday as the league begins its first-ever 18-game regular season slate.

Brad Brownell’s Tigers opened the new year with a 92-51 thrashing of The Citadel on Tuesday, a game that saw the winners register their most points, field goals (35) and largest margin of victory since Brownell took over the program in 2010.

The Seminoles fell to Auburn on the road 78-72 last Thursday.

FSU Preview: Up-and-down 'Noles come to town

FSU (8-5) comes to Clemson (8-4)

"Their team has been a little up and down like us," Brownell said. "But they certainly have a lot of talented players."

The defending ACC Tournament champs had won four consecutive games before falling to AU, but that winning streak started after Leonard Hamilton’s crew lost three straight.

One constant for FSU has been the play of senior guard Michael Snaer, who comes into the contest averaging a team-high 16.3 points per game.

He also averages 5.8 rebounds per contest.

"We’re going to have a couple of different people guard him," Brownell said.

Clemson comes into the ACC opener leading the league in blocks per game (5.2) and second in steals per contest (8.2). Forward K.J. McDaniels, a sophomore, paces the teams in both categories.

"This game ought to be fun, especially for the freshmen," McDaniels said. "I’ve been through it before and it’s a different experience. But we know that Florida State is a good defensive team and they have a good shooter in Snaer."

Freshman guard Adonis Filer had a breakout game on New Year’s Day, going 7-for-7 from the floor — including 4-for-4 from 3-point range — in scoring 21 points in the rout of The Citadel.

Although he isn’t slated to get the start for Clemson this afternoon, he should be off the bench and checking in early once the game gets under way.

He knows, however, the 12 previous games he has played as a collegian haven’t fully prepared him for the high stakes feel of a conference clash.

"It’s a lot tougher now," he said. "You get into league play and there are a lot more rivalry games, and everybody is fighting for a spot in the tournament. And then you know there’s a lot of animosity that can develop between teams that you know you’re going to play twice a year."

Aside from having similar records the teams also have a similar makeup, with plenty of youth peppered with some experience. The Tigers start three sophomores (guard Rod Hall, 6.6 points per game, guard Damarcus Harrison, 6.3 ppg, and McDaniels) along with two seniors (forward Milton Jennings, 10.1 ppg, and center Devin Booker, 11.3 ppg).

Booker is still nursing a sore ankle he re-injured against The Citadel but is expected to get the start.

"I’d list Devin as probable," Brownell said.

McDaniels expects defensive battle

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Freshman Jordan Roper has also been a solid contributor for the Littlejohn tenants, scoring double figures in three of Clemson’s last four games with a high of 16 against Florida A&M.

FSU counters with a freshman (forward Montay Brandon, 5.6 ppg), sophomore (guard Terry Whisnant, 6.8 ppg), two juniors (forward Okaro White, 12.7 ppg and center Kiel Turpin, 4.0 ppg) and Snaer.

"Our guys are in good spirits," Brownell said. "Our guys have played better against teams we’re supposed to beat, but now we have a tremendous challenge at home against the defending ACC champs. Now the stakes rise and we have to play better."

The game will be televised locally on FSCR.

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