April 22, 2009
Clemson, SC – The Clemson men’s basketball team will host Illinois on Wednesday, December 2 in the 11th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The game, which will serve as a rematch from the 2008 event, will be nationally televised by ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU. Time and network designations will be determined at a later date. The three-day event will feature 11 games at various ACC and Big Ten school sites. The ACC has won each of the 10 challenges to date.
This will serve as the fourth meeting between the two schools, and second consecutive matchup in the event. Last season, Clemson overcame a 40-32 halftime deficit to rally for a 76-74 win in Champaign. Demontez Stitt scored a team-high 18 points to ignite the come-from-behind win for the Tigers. Four players scored in double figures for Clemson, including Trevor Booker with 16, and K.C. Rivers and Raymond Sykes with 14 apiece.
Behind 56 percent shooting in the opening half, Illinois opened up its largest lead at eight points, as Mike Davis knocked down a jumper in the final seconds. However, the Tigers quickly answered with seven straight points out of the halftime break to cut the deficit to just one point after a layup by Stitt. Clemson took the lead with just over 11 minutes left on a layup by Sykes.
Illinois led by three with just under six minutes remaining after a pair of baskets by Chester Frazier. But once again Clemson found an answer, as Rivers hit a pair of layups to give the Tigers a lead. Clemson extended its lead to five as David Potter drove the lane for a pullup jumper. Demetri McCamey hit a pair of free throws to cut Clemson’s lead to 76-74 in the final minute. After Stitt missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the free throw line, the Illini failed to get a shot off against Clemson’s defense as the game clock expired.
Illinois won the first two games in the series in back-to-back seasons (1997-98, 1998-99). The two teams first played on December 13, 1997. The Fighting Illini won 71-61 over the 17th-ranked Tigers, coached at the time by Rick Barnes. The second meeting between the two came at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, SC on December 29, 1998. Illinois won by a score of 67-50, holding the Tigers to 29 percent shooting.
Under the watch of Bruce Weber, Illinois has competed in five of the last six NCAA Tournaments. Last season, Weber’s club compiled a record of 24-10 and earned a #5 seed in the South Region. The Illini lost to #12 Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Illinois will return three starters in 2009-10, including Davis, who scored a season-high 28 against Clemson as a sophomore.
Clemson will return three starters next season, including leading scorer and rebounder Trevor Booker. He was a second-team All-ACC selection, and All-ACC Defensive Team member as well. The Tigers finished the 2008-09 season with a #24 final ranking by the Associated Press and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Clemson was 23-9 overall and improved its winning percentage for the fifth straight season under Head Coach Oliver Purnell.
Clemson has an 8-2 record in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Only Duke (10-0) and Wake Forest (8-1) have a better record than Clemson in the history of the event. The Tigers have won five straight in the event and boast a 4-2 record on the road in the event, having won its last three away challenge games (at Penn State, at Minnesota, and at Illinois).
2009 Big Ten/ACC Challenge Schedule
Monday, November 30 Penn State at Virginia
Tuesday, December 1 Maryland at Indiana Michigan State at North Carolina Northwestern at NC State Virginia Tech at Iowa Wake Forest at Purdue
Wednesday, December 2 Boston College at Michigan Duke at Wisconsin Florida State at Ohio State Illinois at Clemson Minnesota at Miami
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