With a tough stretch in its schedule coming up, No. 20 Clemson looks to maintain its perfect season when it hosts East Carolina on Saturday.
Clemson improved to 13-0 with a 98-87 win over South Carolina on Tuesday. One of only five undefeated teams remaining in Division I, the Tigers play their next two games against non-conference opponents before resuming Atlantic Coast Conference play on Jan. 10 against N.C. State, then taking on No. 6 Wake Forest and top-ranked North Carolina
The Tigers have showed little signs of a weakness so far, shooting 55.4 percent from the field and connecting on a season-high 10 3-pointers on Tuesday. They are first in the ACC in 3-point shooting at 38.6 percent.
This is the second time in three seasons Clemson remains has started 13-0. Two years ago, the Tigers were the last remaining unbeaten team in Division I, starting 17-0 before losing at Maryland, 92-87. They went on to lose nine of their final 13 regular-season games.
In 2007-08, they suffered a similar fate after a 10-0 start. Clemson finished 24-10.
“We’re not coming out lackadaisical like we were sometimes last year,” said Terrence Oglesby, who scored a career-high 25 points on Tuesday. “Coach (Oliver) Purnell has us playing hard, playing together. We all love each other.”
Oglesby is third in scoring for the Tigers at 13.8 points per game. He was 6-of-10 from 3-point range Tuesday and is a 44.2 percent shooter beyond the arc (38-of-86) for the season.
“He’s a big time threat for us,” said Purnell. “He’s a dangerous player and, as long as he plays within himself, he’s like an assassin.”
Barring a shocking upset, Clemson’s perfect season figures to remain in tact Saturday when they host Conference USA’s East Carolina (8-4), which has struggled recently, losing three straight.
The Pirates are averaging 61.7 points and shooting 34.9 percent in their last three games after averaging 82.6 points during their first nine games. They are coming off a 63-55 loss to Coastal Carolina last Sunday in their first game since a 95-54 rout by then-No. 10 Wake Forest on Dec. 22.
“Clearly we were sleepwalking from either Christmas or the butt-kicking we took against Wake Forest in the second half,” Pirates coach Mack McCarthy said after Sunday’s loss. “We did a lot of things that we thought would help us get past that and be ready to play. But obviously, it didn’t work.”
Leading scorer Sam Hinnant, who is averaging 16.1 points, has been held to nine points in each of the last two games. He was 3-of-15 from the field Sunday.
This is the third all-time meeting between these two schools. They’ve split the two previous, with each winning at home. The Tigers won last season’s matchup 82-67 on Dec. 5, 2007, led by 22 points from Oglesby, which was his career high until Tuesday.