Wake Forest at Clemson

Wake Forest (11-9, 2-4) at Clemson (10-9, 2-3), 12:00 PM, ACC Network/ESPN3

When Andre Young struggles, Clemson struggles.

Both Clemson and Wake Forest have tough stretches coming up and could really use this win. Clemson plays three of its next four (after Wake) on the road, including at Virginia and Virginia Tech. Wake will host North Carolina on Tuesday (at home), at NC State and then at Virginia. The Deacons have fought back to look at least competent against superior ACC foes even after awful performances, but at some point, the bad play might start to snowball.

Stat to watch: Wake’s turnovers. Wake Forest had taken care of the basketball prior to ACC play, but their 12.5 turnovers per game has shot up to 14.7 a game in league play. And in two of their worst losses (N.C. State and Florida State), they turned it over 17 and 18 times respectively. Wake is just not dynamic enough offensively to win turning it over as much as they have been. They weren’t really forcing turnovers before league play, and they’re forcing even fewer now: ACC opponents average just 10.7 turnovers. The most turnovers any league opponent has had against them was 13 (Duke). Wake’s opponents have scored 15 or more points off Wake turnovers in four of six games while Wake has done that just twice and averages 10.0 points off turnovers in league play. That’s not a good sign for Wake going into the Clemson game – the Tigers force turnovers in bunches, particularly at home. In home wins, Clemson has forced 17.1 turnovers per game compared to 13.5 in all other games. Clemson has taken pretty good care of the ball all year, particularly in ACC play (just 12.6 turnovers per game).

Most important players: Travis McKie, Wake Forest and Andre Young, Clemson. When Clemson has won ACC games, Young has shot 12-of-18 from the floor, 9-of-13 from three and 14-of-17 from the foul line, averaging 23.5 points. In three losses, he’s averaged 10.7 points on 34% shooting (20% from three) and has attempted just two free throws (making them both). He has had to carry Clemson all year from a scoring perspective and while Clemson has won some games without him playing his best, they’re a much more dangerous team when he’s on.

Travis McKie had a really tough time against Florida State. And that’s probably putting it mildly. The sophomore had three points (one off his season low of two against N.C. State) on 1-of-13 shooting. He played well in the loss at Maryland (25 points). Since then, Wake has lost three ACC games and McKie has shot 8-of-30 from the floor and averaged 7.0 points in those games, adding 4.0 turnovers and 3.0 fouls. He fouled out of the Florida State game and was ejected from the N.C. State game after a flagrant foul. He’s been visibly frustrated, which is understandable, but quite frankly Wake is not going to win many games when he doesn’t play well.

Random stat: Clemson’s last win over Wake last year was the first Clemson win over Wake since the 1997-98 season. It’s particularly surprising since Clemson has been pretty good since 2006 and Wake has been terrible in that span (except for 2009-10) and Clemson has only beaten Wake twice in seven meetings between 2006-11 (both wins were in overtime). The 2007 Tigers even lost to a Wake team that finished 15-15, 5-11 in the ACC, so it was big for last year’s team to beat a truly terrible Wake team, even at home. Clemson needs to do the same this year.

Prediction: Clemson 72, Wake Forest 57

Last week: 7-5

Season: 84-31 (21-12 ACC)


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