It never fails, every single year at this time, the head coach of the Clemson basketball team is bombarded with questions about ‘The Streak,’ and we’re not talking about Ray Stevens’ song, either.
WHAT: Clemson vs. North Carolina
WHEN: 4 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Dean E. Smith Center
TV: Jefferson Pilot/Raycom
‘The Streak’ is the 51-game losing streak the Tigers have at North Carolina. ‘The Streak’ equals zero wins in 51 attempts dating back to the 1925-26 season. It is the longest streak currently in the NCAA (Northwestern is 0-34 at Indiana), and the second longest ever (Brown was 0-52 at Princeton before winning there in 2003).
And since Clemson has a chance to equal that mark in futility on Saturday, nearly every single question addressed to Tigers coach Oliver Purnell Friday was obviously about ‘The Streak.’
The yearly questions ask Purnell why ‘The Streak’ exists and will it ever change. And considering he’s only been a part of two of them, maybe he’s not the best person to ask. But he’s the head guy at the moment, thus he gets questions.
“I find it humorous, actually,” he said. “I don’t find it very logical, but at the same time, that’s a part of sport. … That’s what makes sports and other things colorful, little things like that.”
Purnell said ‘The Streak’ is “secondary and thirdary” during his discussions with his team because there’s more important things they should concern themselves with, like the game plan.
“What we talk about is that we need a win in the worst way in the league,” he said. “We talk about needing a road win and those kind of things. And when talking about ‘The Streak,’ that was then and this is now.”
In order to put it to an end, several key factors have to play in Clemson’s favor. It has to be able to slow down freshman center Tyler Hansbrough, play solid perimeter defense, keep the Tar Heels from getting offensive rebounds and improve their averages from the free throw line and three-point range.
“He’s not spectacular in anything he does, but he’s spectacular in his approach,” Purnell said of Hansbrough. “He just does the same old boring thing very, very well. I’m just tremendously impressed with his approach and his work ethic. He’s the best freshman I’ve seen in a long time. …
“Our biggest concern is Akin (Akingbala) getting into foul trouble because I think that’s a very good match up. I really like that match up. That’s the match up to watch. But my biggest concern would be Akin getting into foul trouble. If Akin does not get into foul trouble, we’ve got a very good chance of matching up there.”
Purnell has had success in the Smith Center. He was an assistant on a Maryland team that won there in the 1985-86 season.
That’s why he’s not intimidated with the task at hand. In his eyes, it’s just another difficult road game in the ACC.
“We’re sitting right in that spot where we need to try to get this game to suspend that (two-game) losing streak (in the ACC) and get back on the winning track,” he said. “A win, and we’re right back in the middle of the conference race. That’s why it’s so very, very important. …
“I know there will be talk of the losing streak in Chapel Hill before and after the game. I told our players, and I really believe this, that was then and this is now. There have been a lot of changes in our program over the last couple of years in terms of personnel, but probably more importantly remains that this group of players in this program fears no one an expects to win.”
Who knows, maybe this is the year. There might be some different streaking going on in Clemson should the Tigers win.
Clemson (14-7 overall, 3-5 ACC)
G 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 12.8 ppg, 3.5 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 9.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg
C 33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 240) 10.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208) 6.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg
F 12 Julius Powell (6-9, 205) 5.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
North Carolina (13-5 overall, 4-3 ACC)
G 22 Wes Miller (5-11, 185) 7.1 ppg, 1.3 rpg
G 4 Bobby Frasor (6-3, 195) 6.1 ppg, 1.9 apg
C 50 Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 235) 18.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg
F 34 David Noel (6-6, 232) 11.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg
F 3 Reyshawn Terry (6-8, 220) 13.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg