CLEMSON – When Tommy Bowden called Billy Napier and asked him if he was interested in becoming the…
The Eagles squandered every bit of a 14-point lead late in the second half, making just 12-of-25 free throws and committing 22 turnovers.
The game was there for the taking.
Nonetheless, No. 17 Boston College held Clemson to only two points over the final 1:39 to escape with a 67-61 victory Saturday night in front of 8,606 at the Conte Forum.
"We just didn't execute down the stretch," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "They made a couple of defensive plays down the stretch on blocks. … I give our guys credit for fighting back there at the end and getting the score tied and get ourselves in position to win, but obviously we didn't get over the top."
It truly is starting to become a sad situation, specifically with Clemson sophomore guard Cliff Hammonds.
He's had to endure more heartbreaks and mental distress over the last few weeks than should be allowed for an entire season. And once again, with the game in the balance, Hammonds failed to hit the big shots Saturday against the Eagles.
With Boston College (19-5, 7-4 ACC) leading 61-59 with a little more than a minute remaining, Hammonds drove through the left side of the lane and threw up a shot only to have it blocked by reserve Sean Williams.
The Eagles followed by scoring to take a 63-59 lead with 48.1 seconds left.
On Clemson's ensuing possession, Hammonds drove the right side toward the goal and once again Williams blocked his shot. The Tigers recovered the block, swung the ball around until it found Hammonds in the right corner, where he let go a three-pointer that clanged off the rim and into the hands of a waiting Eagles player.
"There's no question it gets to him, it gets to me, it gets to us," Purnell said. "But you've got to fight through it. There's no question that it's bothersome. It's something that he's got to work through."
The question is how many more failures can his already fragile psyche take. There have been thoughts of sitting Hammonds, who was one of the most consistent players on the team last season as a freshman.
"I could certainly do that," Purnell said. "We're not so deep and so talented that we can afford to take a player like that rest him and put him on the side. … I'd rather see him work through it and I'd rather see us work through it."
Clemson sustained its fifth straight loss and drops to 14-10 overall and 3-8 in the ACC. And in those five straight losses, one came in double overtime, another in overtime, one with the Tigers tied with 1:39 to play and another tied with roughly eight minutes remaining.
It's not as though they are getting blown out. In fact, it mirrors last season when the Tigers lost all those close games for the first two-thirds of the year, only to storm back and win the close ones down the stretch to earn an NIT berth.
Could this year's results match last year's?
"We've just got to keep finding ways to win ball games," said center Akin Akingbala, who had a career high 21 points. "If we keep doing that, it's going to turn around pretty soon."
On a night when Clemson hit its free throws (14-of-18) and committed the fewest turnovers under Purnell (9), its outside shooting let the team down again.
The Tigers made just 36.2 percent of their attempts, including only 5-of-20 from three-point range.
Moreover, guards Vernon Hamilton and Shawan Robinson, two of the team's top three scorers, combined for just five points, with Hamilton getting all of them.
"That was a big problem that we weren't able to bring too much offense tonight," Hamilton said.
Another problem facing Hamilton is his health. With a little more than five minutes left to play, Hamilton fell to the court while trying to make a steal and did something painful to his left arm.
He said following the game that the pain shoots from his wrist to his elbow and that he will x-ray it Sunday morning. For now, it's being labeled as a sprained elbow.
Despite shooting just 32.3 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range in the first half, the Tigers found themselves very much in the ball game at intermission.
And that could be largely attributed to guard K.C. Rivers, who scored 10 points in the first half, to go along with his five rebounds. He finished with 13 points.
However, the Eagles stunned Clemson with Sean Marshall pumping in 12 first-half points, which is usually what the junior usually averages for an entire game. He finished with 18 points, while teammate Jared Dudley added 16 points.
The Tigers next play at home Tuesday night against Maryland in a Valentine's Day special. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.
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