Clemson (2-0) vs. (17) Gonzaga (3-0) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The Clemson Tigers tangle with the 17th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thanksgiving night in the opening round of the 2012 Old Spice Classic.
The winner with play either Texas-El Paso or Oklahoma in the semifinals on Friday. The losers will face off in the consolation bracket.
It's been nearly a full week since Clemson has played last, when it went on the road to take down intrastate rival Furman, 72-55, on Nov. 16. The win brought the Tigers to 2-0 after they won their opener at home over Presbyterian, 77-44.
Gonzaga has risen to No. 17 in the AP poll thanks to a 3-0 start. It made easy work of Southern Utah in its opener (103-65), then it continued on to two more blowouts over West Virginia (84-50) and South Dakota (96-58). The Bulldogs won this tournament in their first appearance back in 2008.
Gonzaga won the only other meeting between the two programs during the 1997-98 season.
The Tigers have gotten off to a great start to the season, as they are draining better than 51 percent of their field goal attempts, and their performance at the defensive end has been even better as their opponents average just 49.5 ppg. The trend continued against Furman, as Clemson shot 28- of-57 from the floor and forced 16 turnovers. Devin Booker scored 15 points in the win, and he was followed closely by K.J. McDaniels (11 points) and Damarcus Harrison (10 points). Through two games, only Booker (13.0 ppg) and Milton Jennings (10.5 ppg) average double figures in scoring, but six different players average between 5.5 and 9.5 ppg. Rod Hall (7.5 ppg) has impressed with his ball-handling skills by dishing out 11 assists and committing zero turnovers.
Gonzaga has dominated its first three opponents, as it's shooting a lofty 54.3 percent from the floor while laying claim to an eye-popping +36.6 scoring margin. It was the same old story against South Dakota the last time out, as the Bulldogs shot 42-of-76 from the floor (.553) while forcing the Coyotes into nearly as many turnovers (20) as they had field goals (21). Elias Harris had a big night in the paint with 16 points and 18 rebounds, and he now averages a double-double on the season (13.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg). Przemek Karnowski was nearly perfect on the night, making 9-of-10 field goal attempts en route to a team-high 20 points. Amazingly, Gonzaga has six players averaging double figures in points, led by Karnowski (16.0 ppg), Harris, and Gary Bell, Jr. (13.0). Sam Dower (11.7), Guy Landry Edi (11.3) and Kevin Pangos (11.0, 5.0 apg) round out an incredibly deep squad.
This will be the toughest task for both squads so far, and it will say a lot about where each team stands going forward. Clemson has size on the inside, but Gonzaga has been so hot shooting the ball that it's difficult to bet against the Bulldogs at this point.
GAME NOTES: The Clemson Tigers tangle with the 17th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs on
Thanksgiving night in the opening round of the 2012 Old Spice Classic.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (5,000) -- Orlando,
Florida. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Clemson 1-0, Gonzaga 3-0. Away
Record: Clemson 1-0, Gonzaga 0-0. Neutral Record: Clemson 0-0, Gonzaga 0-0.
Conference Record: Clemson 0-0, Gonzaga 0-0. Series Record: Gonzaga leads,
Gonzaga 80, Clemson 72