Clemson's Josh Smith pulls down a rebound against Pitt's Michael Young last season at Petersen Events Center.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Clemson has been very tough to beat at home over the years, but the Tigers aren’t playing any true home games this season.
Littlejohn Coliseum, their on-campus arena, is undergoing a $63.5 million renovation and won’t be available until next season. Instead. Clemson is playing its home games 50 minutes from campus in Greenville, S.C., at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it poses problems in terms of getting to and from the facility on game day. The Tigers aren’t able to practice there, either.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Monday he is proud of the way the school has supported his team and helped players make the best of a tough situation. He believes it has helped keep them focused.
“Our university has really done a great job,” Brownell said. “We had the floor repainted with a bunch of Clemson orange in it. We couldn’t have the Tiger Paw in the center because we had to keep the Bon Secours emblem there, but we have done the best we can to try and make it feel like a Clemson environment. It is not 100 percent the same, but we have done everything we can do.
”We don’t practice there. We’ve been there maybe three or four times all year. We take buses on school days.”
Brownell said the bus trips and having to check in and out of a hotel for some weekend day games has brought the players closer.
“I think you have to really be aware of the wear and tear on your guys,” Brownell said. “After home games, they all have to wait for everyone to come out in order to leave, so with the amount of time you spend together, you better like each other.
“It is a little better now that we are on a little bit of a winning streak, but we have to be mindful of the team. College kids like to have some free time, and we already take up enough of their time with practices and things.”
Pitt (16-3, 5-2 ACC) is the next team that will try to solve the Tigers (12-7, 5-2) at their home away from home. The two teams are tied with Notre Dame (14-5, 5-2) and Miami (16-3, 5-2) for third place in the ACC. The game tonight is their only meeting this season, so it could be important for tiebreakers and seeding for the conference tournament .
Clemson has earned the attention of every other team in the ACC with three home wins against ranked opponents – Louisville, Duke and Miami. Brownell said that was a case of a good team getting on a roll and playing consistently well for a couple of weeks in a row.
But the Tigers have been off for a week, so Brownell is nervous that they aren’t going to be quite as sharp as they need to be against the Panthers.
“We had been playing so well, at that point, you just want to keep playing,” Brownell said. “I think it is more about trying to focus on us and controlling what we can control, and we have played well and we have gotten a few wins.”
Pitt is 2-1 under Jamie Dixon against the Tigers, but Clemson won a year ago, 71-62.
Brownell said James Robinson, Jamel Artis and Mike Young are among the best players in the conference. And Brownell also now has faced Dixon’s teams enough to know they are always tough and play extremely hard.
“Jamie is one of the better coaches in the country. His record speaks for itself; it’s remarkable” Brownell said. “They are really having a good season and are an underrated team based on what people are doing.”
“I’m a huge fan of James Robinson. He’s a tough-minded, smart, a winner, and he runs that team exceptionally well. ... Michael Young and Jamel Artis have grown up and become outstanding players in this league.
“So combine that with how Jamie coaches them and how hard they rebound and defend, not surprising they are having success again this year.”
NOTE — Sheldon Jeter is expected to return to the Panthers lineup tonight after missing a 74-72 win Saturday at Florida State with a concussion. Jeter is averaging 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.
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