CLEMSON – Football rules the roost at both Clemson and South Carolina, and Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell is well aware.
But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t expect Littlejohn Coliseum to be sold out when the Tigers and Gamecocks meet on the hardcourt Tuesday night.
“Everybody in the state of South Carolina, if they want this to be a big game, they’ve got to help make it a big game,” Brownell said. “(South Carolina coach) Frank (Martin) and I are trying hard to do our part by putting good products on the floor. You just hope that’s recognized.
“Frank and I would both like to see the fan bases get behind it, get excited about it. We want to see this game be as important as it should be. It should be sold out. We’re playing our rival in a very big game.”
Brownell is right.
Clemson is 9-1 — its best start since the 2008 season — and is coming off a victory against No. 22 Florida in which the Tigers rallied from a 12-point, second-half deficit to win, 71-69. Clemson enters the game on a five-game winning streak.
South Carolina, which is coming off a Final Four appearance last season, is 8-2 and coming off a two-point victory against Coastal Carolina.
“We have a short turnaround against a very good team,” Brownell said. “They’re very physical. Frank gets his guys to play as hard as anybody we’ll play all year. Defensively they really disrupt you and make it difficult for you to get into a flow.”
Clemson has been able to get into a flow more often than not this season, and the result is five starters each averaging in double figures. Senior Donte Grantham leads the way with 15.5 points per game and he’s followed by guards Marcquise Reed (14.6), who on Monday was named ACC Player of the Week, Shelton Mitchell (12.6) and Gabe DeVoe (11.7). Center Elijah Thomas is averaging close to a double-double at 11.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
“This group right here is extremely invested, extremely coachable,” said Brownell, whose 300th career victory came in Saturday’s upset of Florida. “I’m certainly proud of the way the guys played down in Florida. It was just another example of our team being resilient and just playing the next play and not worrying so much about the score.
“They’re really buying into what we’re trying to do. It’s a team that wants to learn, wants to do well, and hopefully we’ll continue to improve.”
South Carolina is led by junior forward Chris Silva, who averages 13.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Graduate transfer guard Frank Booker is scoring at an 11.4 clip while freshman forward Justin Minaya is averaging 10.8 points.