All work for final opponents

Associated Press
Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell

NEW YORK - West Virginia's John Beilein took a break from feverishly drawing up a game plan for his next opponent in the National Invitation Tournament to catch a few hours of sleep.


As the sun rose Wednesday, so did Beilein and his coaching staff. The one comforting thought was that Beilein figured Clemson's Oliver Purnell was probably doing the same.

"It is the one profession where we love to get more work," Beilein said Wednesday during a news conference previewing the NIT finals. "The Air Force Academy and Mississippi State are not up at 6 a.m. or staying up late like our coaches did working. They would rather be working."

Both teams' seasons are still going because of one-point victories at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. West Virginia edged Mississippi State 63-62 on Darris Nichols' buzzer-beating 3-pointer. A few hours later, Clemson held on to beat Air Force 68-67.

The Tigers (25-10) and Mountaineers (26-9) will meet at 7 tonight for the championship.

"I always say that we have the same amount of time as they do," Purnell said. "I would like to have three days to prepare, but we don't. We will watch some tape with the team, go through the scouting report, walk through some things and play against the zone and that kind of thing.."

The Tigers reached NIT finals in 1999 but lost to California. Clemson has never won an NIT or NCAA men's basketball title, so they're motivated to bring a trophy back to South Carolina.

"I think it would be another sign that the program is going in the right direction," Purnell said. "Every year, we have gotten better and better. The university would be proud of (us) in terms of where our basketball program is and I think it will be an excellent springboard moving forward."

West Virginia is in the NIT championship for the second time - the Mountaineers beat Western Kentucky in 1942.

Clemson has won four in a row since losing to Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, beating East Tennessee State, Mississippi and Syracuse before hanging on against Air Force.


Clemson Tigers (25-10) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (26-9)

Where: Madison Square Garden (7, ESPN)

Coaches: Clemson-Oliver Purnell, West Virginia-John Beilein

NIT Finals: Clemson (0-1, lost to California in 1999); West Virginia (1-0, beat Western Kentucky in 1942)