Clemson University

Clemson tries to avoid history

CLEMSON -- Glen Miller has walked in Clemson's shoes.

Miller was coach at Brown when the Bears finally prevailed at Princeton in February 2003, snapping an NCAA-record 52-game road losing streak in the series.

The cathartic release changed series dynamic. Brown has won at Princeton two out of four times since and figures to be favored in their clash next Saturday.

Clemson has a sympathetic place in Miller's heart -- he was an assistant on the 1990 Connecticut team that stunned the Tigers with Tate George's miraculous buzzer-beater in the NCAA tournament -- yet he finds himself short on advice.

A loss at North Carolina today would give Clemson the dubious distinction of surpassing Brown for a record 53rd straight defeat on an opponent's home court.

"The Streak," as it is known in these parts, has reached the brink of unprecedented proportions.

"You have to break through," said Miller, who now coaches at Penn. "With us, it was as simple as the better we got, the better chance we had to break the streak."

Which is why Clemson might carry its most confidence into Chapel Hill, N.C., in at least a decade.

Yes, UNC (21-2, 6-2 ACC) is ranked No. 3 nationally and nearly topped No. 2 Duke on Wednesday despite the double-whammy of being short-handed and enduring the Blue Devils' sharpest shooting of the season.

But lately, these do not appear to be your older brother's Tigers (17-5, 5-3), who have posted a winning record through the opening half of ACC play for the first time since 1996-97.

Clemson has shellacked Boston College and Virginia by 22 and 31 points, respectively, in consecutive games while adapting to various role changes.

Senior Cliff Hammonds has proven a steadying influence at point guard in place of injured freshman Demontez Stitt, and two other bit players -- swingmen Sam Perry and David Potter -- have added to the Tigers' defensive and offensive dimensions, respectively. That on top of the hot hand of wing K.C. Rivers, who nailed eight 3-pointers for a career-high 32 points Wednesday against the Cavs.

"With the history behind this game, it's definitely going to be a battle," senior James Mays said.

Mays knows Clemson coach Oliver Purnell would not want to hear it, but he counted himself among the timid in his "Dean Dome" debut.

The intimidation factor both Mays and Rivers admitted can be present would figure to have a limited impact this time around.

Although Clemson did not visit UNC last season, it boasts the most experienced starting five in the conference, a lineup now stocked with three seniors, a junior and a sophomore since Perry's insertion.

Depending on Stitt's availability, the rest of the Tigers' rotation includes junior center Raymond Sykes, freshman guard Terrence Oglesby and Potter, a sophomore.

Because of that relative maturity, Purnell does not plan to shelter the team from the program's historical albatross.

"This year's team will be our major focus," Purnell said. "But at some point, if it feels natural to bring up the streak -- it's obviously something that's going to be written about -- I certainly won't run from it."