Clemson University

Tigers might be downsized

CLEMSON - The Tigers are the small kids in a neighborhood of ACC giants.

But as Clemson continues its stretch run today by hosting Miami, the Tigers might elect to become even smaller.

In snapping their three-game losing streak against Florida State on Wednesday, the Tigers played point guards Demontez Stitt and Andre Young together for 22 minutes. That was the most the 6-foot-2 Stitt and 5-9 Young have played together during ACC play, and the most since the Tigers met Illinois on Dec. 2.

The small backcourt allows the Tigers to play their up-tempo game at a faster pace, and places their leader in made 3-pointers, Young, on the floor more often.

The trade-off is the Tigers are smaller, which is mainly a defensive liability in the halfcourt.

Still, of the Tigers' 20 most common five-man units, the best three groups according to plus/minus per 40 minutes include Stitt and Young.

"Moving forward, I think you will see that (small lineup) a bunch," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "We're never going to be as big as most teams in this league. We want to be quick. We are quick even when those two aren't (paired together), but we are super quick when those two are playing together."

Stitt and Young were paired together Wednesday when the Tigers closed the first half by increasing their lead from three to 13 points.

During that four-minute span, Young drilled all three of his 3-point attempts.

The Tigers entered shooting 25 percent from beyond the arc in ACC play and wanted to open space on the court.

Young made his 3s coming off ball screens. He usually is the primary ball-handler when paired with Stitt, but Young is also an effective catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter, which is important considering the double-teams Trevor Booker receives and Booker's excellent passing ability.

"It seems like more and more we have played together," Young said of playing with Stitt. "Personally, I think it is a good matchup for us. It takes off pressure on both of us. We are a good defensive team when we are out there and we can really push the ball on offense."

Stitt can also create kick-out situations to Young with his driving ability.

"Once we get in halfcourt, there are more opportunities to make plays," Purnell said.

The shooting will be especially important today because Miami employs a variety of zone defenses. Florida State played some zone Wednesday.

The Stitt-Young backcourt also gives the Tigers two point guards to run the fast break and handle the ball. But on a team that uses pressure defense and lacks a third point guard, how much can Purnell pair them without burning them out?

Young said he had no problem shouldering the full load when Stitt was out with injury. And Stitt appears to be gradually nearing full health.

If the pair can handle 35 minutes per game, the lineup could produce the offensive burst the Tigers need down the stretch.

If the Tigers split their remaining six games (three home, three road), Clemson would finish 20-10 overall and 8-8 in the ACC, which Purnell believes would be enough to earn an NCAA bid.

"It should be," Purnell said, "but I've seen stranger things happen."

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