With an unblemished record, Clemson clearly is the class of college basketball in the Palmetto State.
Looking to stay undefeated, the 20th-ranked Tigers travel to Columbia to face South Carolina on Tuesday night.
These teams are about as evenly matched as two can get - Clemson is averaging 81.8 points per game and allowing 61.3 while South Carolina is scoring 81.6 points and giving up 61.5.
But Clemson (12-0) is one of nine undefeated teams in Division I, and stands a good chance of remaining so after this contest. The Tigers have won the last four overall meetings with the Gamecocks, including the last two in the state capital.
The Tigers were tested on Dec. 21, but remained perfect by rallying for a 91-72 victory over Miami in their ACC opener. K.C Rivers scored 28 points and Terrence Oglesby added 17 as Clemson rallied from an early 12-point deficit by taking advantage of the mistake-prone Hurricanes, who committed a season-high 22 turnovers.
“I thought our guys came in with the proper mind-set that you have to have when you’re going on the road, in league, against a good team,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “You’ve got to be prepared to take their initial blow in the beginning of the game … but I thought our guys really settled down and showed great poise.”
Clemson is perfect through 12 games for the second time in three seasons. In 2006-07, Purnell’s club got off to a 17-0 start, and was the last remaining undefeated Division I team before losing at Maryland, starting a stretch in which the Tigers lost nine of their final 13 regular-season contests.
To try and avoid a similar fate, Clemson will look to Rivers. The forward and the reigning ACC player of the week leads the Tigers with 14.7 points per game. In his first career start against South Carolina on Dec. 1, 2007, Rivers finished with 24 points in an 85-74 home victory.
Fellow forward Trevor Booker is second in scoring (14.5) and leads Clemson with 9.6 rebounds per game. The junior is four rebounds short of 600 for his career.
South Carolina (9-1) will try to close out the month unbeaten. Under rookie coach Darrin Horn, the Gamecocks improved to 5-0 in December with a 75-56 rout of Presbyterian on Dec. 23.
Forwards Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes set season-highs with 19 points apiece as South Carolina posted its ninth double-digit victory of the season.
The Gamecocks needed that kind of output as their starting backcourt struggled.
Guard Devan Downey finished with 13 - one off his season low - after averaging a team-high 19.7 coming in. Zam Frederick finished with only 10, well below his 15.1-point-per-game average.