GAME NOTES: The fifth seed in the upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament will be on the line as the Pittsburgh Panthers and Clemson Tigers square off at Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday.
Pittsburgh and Clemson both enter this regular-season finale with a 10-7 ACC record. The winner will be the fifth seed in the conference tournament. The Panthers completed a 76-43 rout of the Tigers on Jan. 21 in the Steel City to improve to 2-0 all-time in the series.
The Panthers are netting 72.3 ppg on 45.9 percent shooting from the floor and outrebounding their opponents by an average of 6.3 rpg. Pittsburgh is also holding its foes to just 62 ppg on 41.1 percent efficiency from the field. Coach Jamie Dixon's squad will be looking to bounce back from the 74-67 loss it was handed by NC State at home on Monday. The setback dropped the Panthers to a 22-8 overall record. With a win at Littlejohn Coliseum, the Panthers will improve to 7-2 in true road tests, which would tie for the best away record in school history.
Clemson earned its second consecutive win and fourth victory in five games its last time out by edging Miami-Florida, 58-54. The Tigers are now just one decision shy of their 13th 20-win season in program history. Coach Brad Brownell's team will also set a new school record for ACC victories with a win on Saturday. The Tigers' success throughout the campaign has come courtesy of tough defensive play, as they rank third in ACC games in scoring defense with an allowance of just 59.5 ppg. Clemson has managed to produce just 58.1 ppg versus its ACC rivals.
Pittsburgh appeared to be destined for its 23rd win of the campaign on Monday as it took a 36-31 lead into the intermission after knocking down 59.1 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half versus NC State, however it cooled off to go 8-of-20 from the floor after the break. The Wolfpack punished the Panthers from beyond the arc, sinking 6-of-11 attempts in the second stanza en route to the seven-point decision. Lamar Patterson had a strong showing in the losing effort as he tallied 17 points and six assists, while freshman guard Josh Newkirk came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field. Talib Zanna also made his mark with 11 points and nine boards. Patterson is pacing the team on the campaign with 17.2 ppg and 4.5 apg. Zanna is a consistent double-double threat with averages of 12.6 ppg and 8.3 rpg.
Over the span of the Tigers' last five games, junior guard Damarcus Harrison has stepped up his play to contribute 13.2 ppg, while hitting on 11-of-23 attempts from 3-point range. Harrison and K.J. McDaniels scored 12 points apiece versus the Hurricanes in their last outing, while Rod Hall paced the team with 14 points and six assists. Clemson finished the contest with a 31-23 advantage in total rebounds and outscored Miami, 12-2, at the charity stripe. McDaniels has started 28 out of 29 games this season and posted 17.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg in ACC games. Hall is adding 9.6 ppg and has racked up 114 assists with only 45 turnovers,
Pittsburgh dominated the Tigers when these schools met this season. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the ACC on the road and have much more firepower on the offensive end than the hosts. Clemson will need to control the tempo and limit Pittsburgh's open looks from the perimeter if it hopes to notch its first-ever win over the Panthers.
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