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January 30, 2010

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CLEMSON, (S.C.) -- On Jan. 18, Demontez Stitt was confident that the sprained foot he suffered two days earlier in a win at N.C. State would be better by the end of the week.

Twelve days later, the best-case scenario for Stitt's left foot returning to normal is two to three weeks.

It's a tough reality for a basketball team that hasn't looked the same since its starting point guard went down in Raleigh.

"I thought the healing process would be a little bit faster," Stitt said Saturday. "I didn't realize how serious this was."

Stitt, a junior who sat out Tuesday's 75-69 loss at Boston College, did not appear optimistic about his chances of playing in Sunday's 5:30 p.m. game against Maryland at Littlejohn Coliseum.

And nor did coach Oliver Purnell, whose team has lost three consecutive games. The Tigers (15-6, 3-4 ACC) haven't lost four straight since the 2006-07 season.

Stitt, who scored in double figures eight times in a nine-game stretch before sitting out the loss to Boston College, said he finally shed his walking boot two days ago. He's been getting rides across campus in a golf cart.

"I haven't really practiced," he said just before the Tigers took the floor for Saturday's practice. "I'm going to try to get some shooting in and see how it feels. I'm out of the boot now, so I'm actually walking better. But as far as putting pressure on it and running, it's kind of tough right now. Hopefully it'll be better in a couple of weeks."

The Tigers figure to need all the help they can get against the Terrapins (14-5, 4-1), who have won four consecutive games and stand at the top of the ACC standings.

Maryland is led by 6-foot-6 point guard Greivis Vasquez, who's averaging 17.8 points and 6.2 assists per game.

The Terps are formidable on the offensive end, but they also pose problems for a struggling Clemson offense with their various forms of pressure.

The Tigers haven't put together complete games since Stitt's injury, which was suffered with less than 14 minutes to play at N.C. State. Stitt left the game and didn't return, helping the Wolfpack trim a 13-point deficit to one before Clemson pulled out a 73-70 victory.

The Tigers shot 34.8 percent in the second half of that game. In a 66-64 loss at Georgia Tech three days later - a game in which Stitt played 36 minutes - Clemson shot 33.3 percent in the second half.

A week ago at home against Duke, the Tigers mustered just 47 points and shot 37.5 percent in a 13-point loss to the Blue Devils.

At Boston College, Clemson fell behind by 19 points in the first half while shooting 37.9 percent in the first 20 minutes.

"I was a little disappointed in the Boston College game, the way we played in the first half," Stitt said. "It seemed like we didn't want it."

The Tigers have made 11 of 44 shots from 3-point range during the losing streak and have compiled a 25.6 percent clip from beyond the arc in their seven ACC games.

Stitt tweaked his foot against Georgia Tech and Duke, stepping on an opposing player's foot both times. He said his biggest worry is doing it again, and he's also struggling to rise up and stand on his toes.

Purnell said the initial prognosis has not changed.

"You and I could sprain our ankle today, and we could sprain it two weeks from now," he said. "If you sprain it today and the doctor says you can walk around on it and do whatever, it's going to be sore but you have no danger of doing any further damage by walking instead of putting it in a cast. It's kind of like that. I don't think much has changed. He did turn it again in the Georgia Tech game, and he turned it again in the Duke game. … He's turned it additionally, which you can do."

Stitt suffered a sprained left ankle last season, but he said that injury has not played a role with his current ailment.

"I'd rather this have been an ankle injury instead of a foot injury, because it's sort of easier to get back from an ankle injury," he said.

Sophomore Andre Young had an uneven game at Boston College in his first college start. After a difficult first half, he recovered and finished with seven points, five assists and four turnovers in a career-high 39 minutes.

After Sunday's visit from Maryland, the Tigers play at Virginia Tech a week from today before playing host to Florida State four days later.

"It's different, and everybody's got to adjust a little bit," Purnell said. "One of the obvious things (Stitt) gets us is easy baskets off penetration. We were tentative against Boston College, and we didn't get much of that at all. We've made a point to be more aggressive with all of our guys, but Demontez has a natural acumen for that - slicing to the basket, and that kind of thing. You've got to get points in a different way. I think offensively, we've got to have more movement and more cutting without him."

Stitt appeared devastated after the Duke loss, but he said his attitude has since improved despite the bleak circumstances.

"I guess for anybody that's pretty competitive, it's kind of hard," he said. "I still want to be out there, but at the same time I know I have to support my team. And even though I can't play right now, I can still give 100 percent on the bench and try to talk to the guys and keep them involved in the game."

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