Clemson, UMass square off Sunday for Charleston Classic title

Clemson's Rod Hall pushes the ball up-court against Davidson's Jack Gibbs in the first half at the Charleston Classic NCAA college basketball tournament in Charleston, S.C., Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. At left is Clemson head coach Brad Brownell. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Clemson basketball fans hope the Tigers can turn the tables on Massachusetts in Sunday’s nationally televised (9 p.m., ESPN2) championship game of the Charleston Classic at TD Arena.

Charleston Classic

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Davidson vs. New Mexico Noon (ESPNU)

Nebraska vs. Georgia 2:30 p.m. (ESPN3)

Alabama-Birmingham vs. Temple 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3)

Championship

Massachusetts vs. Clemson 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Minutemen (5-0) have dealt four opponents their first loss of the season, something the unbeaten Tigers (5-0) hope to avoid.

“I have not watched UMass much at all. I know Chaz Williams (18.4 ppg, 6.4 apg), their point guard, is dynamite,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Friday after the Tigers advanced to the championship game with an 85-54 whipping of Davidson. Clemson beat Temple in the opener, 72-58.

Massachusetts advanced with an opening-round 96-90 win over Nebraska, then stunned No. 19 New Mexico, 81-65, on Friday. This will be only the second meeting on the court between Clemson and Massachusetts. The Tigers beat the Minutemen in the 1984 Music City Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.

Clemson, coming off a 13-18 season, didn’t get a lot of love in the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference rankings, picked to finish 14th out of 15 teams. But the Tigers have tried to ignore what outsiders think.

“We’re focused on one thing right now and that’s being a better team. We just have to go out and play for each other,” junior forward and team leader K.J. McDaniels said.

Leading by example, McDaniels played a near-perfect game in the win over Davidson. Of his nine field goal attempts, his only miss was a 3-pointer as he scored a career-high 22 points. Damarcus Harrison was almost as good, missing just two field goal attempts in 10 tries as he scored 20 points against the Wildcats.

Brownell said there is a lot of camaraderie on this year’s team and the success is making the game more enjoyable.

“They’ve been hungry and played really hard for each other. They really like each other, care for each other,” Brownell said. “We’re having fun coaching these guys because they enjoy coming to practice and getting to work.”

Brownell said he was impressed by the Minutemen, a preseason No. 4 pick in the Atlantic 10 conference, when he saw them at the Charleston Classic’s opening banquet.

“They were maybe the biggest team here. They’re just very long and athletic. Derek (Kellog, the UMass coach) has done a great job of building their program. They play fast. They come after you. You really have to play at a high level. They are having an outstanding year. We know we’re going to have to play outstanding basketball to finish this thing.”

This is Massachusetts’ first time playing in the Charleston Classic, while Clemson is making its second appearance after playing previously in 2008.

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