CLEMSON -- NBA scouts place a premium on size. They lined press row Wednesday night to watch Florida State's 7-1 center Solomon Alabi and 6-9 wing Chris Singleton play against Clemson forward Trevor Booker.
What they saw were guards keeping the Tigers' season on the brink with a 77-67 win against Florida State. And riding the edge of NCAA Tournament status beats the alternative for Clemson: Falling over the precipice with a poor home stand.
"High stakes game, high stakes effort," said Tigers coach Oliver Purnell of Clemson's play in the first of three straight critical games at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Andre Young and David Potter tied for game-high scoring with 19 points each, and Clemson (17-7, 5-5 ACC) shot 40 percent from 3-point land, despite entering last in the ACC in that category.
The lack of shooters has allowed teams to congest the lane against Booker -- held to 30 points over his last three games -- stagnating the offense.
The lack of outside shooting seemed especially problematic against the Seminoles (17-7, 5-5), the best defensive team in the league.
But on Wednesday, Potter snapped his shooting slump by connecting on 4 of 5 3-pointers, and Andre Young made 3 of 5.
Purnell couldn't explain Potter's performance.
"I could make something up," Purnell said.
The Clemson coach said it would be a major lift if Potter can revert to
the Potter of the beginning of the season, when Potter shot efficiently and stretched the floor.
Potter said he was more assertive Wednesday.
His confidence had waned and he had become hesitant, missing 31 of his last 37 3s prior to Virginia Tech.
"Coach (Ron) Bradley sat me down a couple weeks ago and talked about being aggressive," Potter said.
The Tigers were especially effective when playing with both point guards together.
With Demontez Stitt drawing attention as a dribble-drive threat, it created room for Young, who is the team's best shooter but needs room to launch 3s due to his 5-9 height.
The pair played the final minutes of the first half together.
In the final four minutes, Young hit three 3s, growing the Tigers' lead from three points to 13 (37-24) at the break.
Entering with a 25 percent 3-point shooting percentage in ACC play, the Tigers shot 50 percent (6 of 12) in the first half.
"Demontez is a good penetrator, so it opens up shots for me and it also takes pressure off me," Young said. "I don't always have to get the ball in the backcourt or bring the ball up."
Purnell said Stitt, who appeared to be quicker coming back from his mid-foot sprain, was plus-17 points in the first half on the team's plus/minus chart.
While much had been made of the FSU defense, the Tigers' defensive effort was better Wednesday.
Other than a few mistakes on defending the high-ball screen, Purnell was pleased, limiting Florida State to 37.9 shooting.
The Tigers limited Singleton to six points on 2 of 7 shooting, and Alabi had only 3 first-half points.
"We did a good job of following the defensive game plan," Purnell said. "Not just with our pressure but in the half court."
Young, explaining the effort, said the team focused on a single word this week: "Urgency."
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