The battle for fifth place in the ACC concludes Saturday when Clemson hosts Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale. The schools are knotted in fifth place in the conference after the Panthers endured a February swoon and the Tigers won four of their last five. The teams certainly did not appear evenly matched in the first meeting, when Clemson shot 32 percent from the floor and was run out of the gym in a 76-43 loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 21.
The Panthers were 17-2 after that triumph and won at Maryland in their next game before dropping six of the next 10 games, including a 74-67 home setback to North Carolina State on Monday. Only one of Pittsburgh’s last 10 games has been decided by more than seven points, but three of the four wins they managed to pull out have come on the road. The Tigers’ recent surge bought them a prominent spot on the NCAA Tournament at-large bubble, and a revenge win over the Panthers would add to their tournament dreams.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ACC Network
ABOUT PITTSBURGH (22-8, 10-7 ACC): The Panthers are second in the ACC in rebounding margin but came up short in that category against N.C. State, getting beaten on the boards 35-23. “We have been stressing the rebound all year long and when we come up short, that is the thing that has stood out to me,” coach Jamie Dixon told reporters. “Sometimes our guys don’t recognize it and other people don’t recognize it, and obviously (against the Wolfpack) we set records with our least amount of numbers. I don’t know how you can get two offensive rebounds.” Talib Zanna leads Pittsburgh in rebounding (8.3) but hauled in a season-low two boards in the first meeting with Clemson.
ABOUT CLEMSON (19-10, 10-7): The Tigers are making their way up the ACC standings on the strength of a defense that ranks second in the conference in defensive field-goal percentage (.393) and scoring defense (56.7), through they let Pittsburgh go off at 56.3 percent in the first meeting. The defense helps cover for an offense that ranks near the bottom of the conference in scoring (62.7) and keeps the team in games at the end. “It feels good, mostly for our players,” coach Brad Brownell told reporters of winning close games. “You see how hard players work and then you go and play your tail off and lose by a couple of baskets and that’s hard. There’s really not a big difference between 6-10 and 10-6.”
1. Clemson leads the ACC in defending the 3-pointer (.277), but allowed Pittsburgh to go 8-for-15 from beyond the arc in the first meeting.
2. Tigers F K.J. McDaniels has scored in double figures in eight straight games.
3. Panthers F Lamar Patterson is averaging 18.2 points on 36.4 percent shooting in the last five games.
PREDICTION: Pittsburgh 61, Clemson 58