CLEMSON — When it became official, senior guard Gabe DeVoe was so delighted that he whipped out his cell phone to spread the news.
For the first time in eight years, the Clemson’s men’s basketball team found itself ranked in the Associated Press Poll earlier this month. For DeVoe, that was worth celebrating.
“Oh yeah, I was excited,” DeVoe told reporters Tuesday ahead of No. 19 Clemson’s matchup with N.C. State (11-5, 1-2 ACC) on Thursday. “I texted my mom, texted all my boys, just excited talking about seeing a number beside your name. It was a big deal to me.”
Now DeVoe is hoping a ranking is here to stay. It will only validate what has become common knowledge at this point; the Tigers are playing their best basketball of the Brad Brownell era 15 games into the season. Thursday night on the road they have yet another chance to prove this season is different — not just a temporary streak — when they travel to N.C. State for the second matchup between the two teams in just 12 days.
Clemson (14-1, 3-0 ACC) beat N.C. State, 78-62, at Littlejohn Coliseum on Dec. 30. But the Wolfpack are coming off a 96-85 upset of No. 2 Duke on Saturday.
“Their bigs did a great job in that game between the three of them. I think six players had double figures so a balanced scoring attack,”DeVoe said. “Teams are more juiced up playing on their home court, so I think we just need to do a good job on the defensive boards, just keep them off the offensive glass and just keep the ball out of the paint.”
When Clemson beat N.C. State last month, the Tigers shot nearly 10 percent better from the field than the Wolfpack did, and Clemson played a more balanced brand of basketball. The Tigers had 17 assists in that game to N.C. State’s nine. All five starters scored at least 10 points.
But the Wolfpack used that same formula to beat Duke. N.C. State had 17 assists of their own and the Blue Devils had 16 turnovers that led to 22 points for the Wolfpack, who also had 44 of their 96 points in the paint.
Rebounding will also be at a premium, Brownell said.
“N.C. State played unbelievable in the game (against Duke). Had a bunch of guys making shots, Torin Dorn made some huge 3s,” Brownell said. “I thought (Braxton) Beverly and Al Freeman were good throughout. They have great size inside with (Omer) Yurtseven and Lennard Freeman and (Abdul-Malik) Abu. Those guys are big and strong enough to rebound and finish strong around the basket and keep people away.”
Brownell expects this matchup to be a bit more intense than the last.
“We know it’s going to be a great atmosphere in there Thursday at 9 p.m.,” he said. “It should be a very good game, I’m looking forward to playing it.”