Clemson Escapes With Win

CLEMSON – As Tyler Berg's three-point shot from the right corner at the buzzer floated through the air, all Clemson could do was hope and wait. If the shot was good, Wofford, the smallest Division I school in the nation would pull off the massive upset and hand the Tigers their first loss of the year.

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"It looked so good coming the whole way and my heart was in my stomach," Clemson guard Vernon Hamilton said. "And at the last second, it went toward the back of the rim and was long."

Berg's shot hit off the back of the rim and fell innocently to the court as Clemson survived the scare to get the 62-60 victory over Wofford Saturday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

"I don't think there's anybody in the gym who is happier than I am right now to get this win," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "They knew our stuff, they handled our pressure and they exploited some things."

Terriers coach Mike Young wanted to go for the win on the game's last possession. He didn't feel his odds of winning in overtime were very good. After all, Wofford's leading scorer Eric Marshall missed nearly the entire second half due to a severe knee injury and starting guard Drew Gibson had already fouled out.

The shot the team ultimately got wasn't the one that Young drew up, but he was satisfied with it. And even though the Terriers (3-5) came within a few inches of getting the win, Young said there are very little moral victories.

"I told them in the locker room that I'm not going to pat you on the head," he said. "We expected to come down here and compete and give ourselves a chance to win and we did that but we didn't win the ultimate prize."

After 20 lead changes and 14 ties, the Tigers (7-0) eventually grabbed the lead for good at 60-58 when Hamilton stole a pass and went the distance for a layup with 3:20 remaining. He finished with 12 points.

The massive struggle for Clemson comes on the heels of big wins over rival South Carolina, which plays in the Southeastern Conference, and Penn State, which is a member of the Big 10.

Conversely, Wofford, which was paced by Shane Nichols with 11 points, is the smallest Division I school with an enrollment of 1,160 and entered the contest having lost two of its last three games.

Young knew the pulling off the upset was going to be a very tall order.

"They've been behind, what (90) seconds all year?" he said. "They're just killing people. I felt like Rocky going in with the big Russian (Ivan Drago). My athletic director isn't as old as Rocky's trainer, but I was looking over to him for some help."

The Terriers, who played the nearly the entire second half without its leading scorer Eric Marshall due to a knee injury, held the lead several different times throughout the game, with the last time coming on a three-pointer from Adam Sheehan from the left wing to make it 56-54 with 4:48 left to play.

"I did not feel that we played with the energy and intensity that we had been playing with and I think part of it is just kind of natural human nature, which we had got to fight," Purnell said. "But it's good to be in this type of game as long as you win the game."

Clemson was paced by Shawan Robinson with 17 points, while Akin Akingbala added 14 points and eight rebounds.

Both teams were sloppy in the first half as each committed 13 turnovers. Clemson, which led by as many as five points in the opening 20 minutes, held a 29-26 lead at intermission.

The next game for the Tigers is Friday night against East Tennessee State and there's little doubt that they will be ready when the game starts.

"I think we'll come out and practice as hard as we've been practicing for every other team," Clemson guard Cliff Hammonds said. "I think when Friday comes, we'll start the game harder than we did tonight. We'll come out more attentive."