Arizona vs. Clemson: Tigers' deliberate style to test Wildcats

US PRESSWIRE

The Clemson Tigers will use an aggressive defense to disrupt the Arizona Wildcats, who haven't been careful with the ball of late.

Time: Saturday, 6 p.m. MST

TV: ESPN2

The turnover concerns for the Arizona Wildcats have revolved around point guard Mark Lyons, and by no means is that a fair thing when discussing the last game against Southern Miss. Twenty-seven total turnovers cast a thick smoke over what otherwise looked like a gutsy victory against a team that should've been blown out.

As far as he sounded, Sean Miller was more thankful than worried following the win, but said smoke left a tarnish on the Wildcats. Until they clean it up, it'll linger, and they'll get a shot in South Carolina Saturday against a Clemson team that, while not very good, will present a legitimate challenge on the offensive end.

The Tigers allow 53.7 points per game with a man defense that pressures the ball and overplays off of it to create turnovers. Brad Brownell's team will also get opponents out of sync, something that the Wildcats (6-0) were against Southern Miss' pressure zone defense last time out.

With no elite scorer, the Tigers will look to keep the tempo slow. Against Gonzaga, who averages 83.7 points per game and leads the NCAA with 53.1 shooting, Clemson allowed just 57 points. The Bulldogs shot 48.9 percent and only had 13 turnovers, but the pace kept Clemson in it before the Zags pulled out a 57-49 win.

According to TheState.com:

Clemson's defense, as it has all three seasons under Brownell, is predicated on applying intense pressure on the ball. The Tigers deny passing lanes, particularly to the post, and attempt to prevent the opposition from moving the ball where it wants on the court.

Forwards Devin Booker and K.J. McDaniels lead the team at 11.9 points each, and Booker, a 6-foot-8, 250 pound forward, leads Clemson with 7.6 rebounds a night. McDaniels is perhaps the biggest shooting threat, having hit 10-of-22 three-pointers on the season. At 6-foot-6, the athletic forward also leads the club with two blocks a night.

Arizona's offense probably will fare better against a pressure man defense than against a zone. Their athleticism should be able to break down the ball pressure and then the defense as a whole. Traditionally, Miller's teams haven't had as much of a problem against pressure man defenses as they have against zones; against Duke in the Sweet 16 two years ago, current NBA players Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving, among others, were part of Coach K's pressure defense, on and off the ball, breaking down against the Wildcats.

Complementing the Tigers' defense is a deliberate offense. GreenvilleOnline.com writes that Brownell's motion lacks the consistent three-point shooting threats as did a similar motion offense in Purdue, who Clemson played earlier in the year. That game ended poorly for the Tigers (5-2), who fell to Matt Painter's team in their only other loss outside the Gonzaga game as Purdue connected on 8-of-18 shots from three-point range.

That should whet the Wildcats' appetites.

Like Purdue Arizona runs a motion, and like Purdue, the Wildcats can hit their threes. Miller's team is tied with Creighton as the 10th-best three-point shooting team in NCAA ball, connecting on 41.3 percent of long-range shots.

The Tigers' starting lineup will be without guard T.J. Sapp, who transferred this week, but it welcomes back forward Milton Jennings, who was suspended two games following a marijuana possession arrest. The 6-foot-9, 225 pound forward averages 10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game to go with 1.6 steals.

Meanwhile, Arizona and Lyons especially will have a road test where mettle will be tested once again. It'll also be a prime chance for the slick ball-handler from New York to break down his man, take it to the hoop and show that he can make the right decision with the ball.

As far as the point guard play goes, it's not nearly time to panic. Lyons told Bruce Pascoe that winning is all he's concerned about. The Wildcats are doing that just fine.

Yes, he knows that his play can improve but only six games in, there's plenty of time for that.


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