“I think we thought we were tired,” Purnell said. “That’s what I talked to the team about (after the game), it’s a state of mind.”
After a very lethargic opening 15 minutes, Purnell challenged his team and to play harder and faster and it worked as Clemson rolled to the 67-58 victory over Furman Wednesday night, in what was the first home game of the season for the Tigers.
“It was a good win for us against a Furman team that played pretty well,” Purnell said. “We played mentally tired tonight and I thought we shot poorly.”
As the game progressed, Clemson (4-0) shot better and better. In the second half, the Tigers made 52 percent of their field goal attempts, which was drastically better than their 45.2 percent in the first half.
“We’ve just got to push through (the fatigue),” said Clemson senior point guard Vernon Hamilton. “Usually the team that’s able to push through usually wins the basketball game.”
The game never really got that close for the Tigers to have to worry. The closes Furman got in the second half was 38-31 with 14:17 remaining.
Clemson quickly pushed that lead up to 18 at 58-40 with 8:07 left to play.
However, the 3-point shooting and free throw shooting wasn’t very good and the Tigers are fortunate the game didn’t come down to the final seconds as it did so many times last season.
Clemson was just 4-of-16 from beyond the arc, while a shooting a woeful 9-of-21 (42.9 percent) from the charity stripe.
Hamilton had the hardest night, making only one 3-pointer out of five tries, and only two free throws in five attempts.
“We didn’t have a laser-like focus at the line,” Hamilton said. “We were just too relaxed.”
Junior forward James Mays didn’t help the situation either by going 1-for-7 from the free throw line.
“It bothers me a lot,” Mays said. “It’s something I’ve got to improve on. I want to get in the gym right now and shoot some.”
Even with those problems, Hamilton and Mays led the Tigers in scoring, getting 13 and 11 respectively. Mays also had game-highs with 10 rebounds, six assists (a career high), and three blocks.
“(Being tired) is a state of mind,” Mays said. “But if you suck it up, good things will happen.”
Hamilton said he and Mays discussed the free throw shooting after the game and said both agreed that they would get to the gym early on Thursday and get up about 200 free throws each.
Outside of those two areas, it was a pretty successful night for the Tigers, who held the top two scorers for Furman (2-1) in check.
Robby Bostain, who averaged 24.5 points per game coming in, scored just nine, while Eric Webb, who averaged 16 points per game, managed nine as well.
“Their pressure defense, especially their inside defense, was tough for us,” Paladins coach Jeff Jackson said. “They played hard defense and made it tough for us to score points.”
The first 20 minutes was uninspiring for both teams.
Clemson was just 2-of-9 from 3-point range, while going a dreadful 1-for-7 from the free throw line. The Paladins, meanwhile, shot 21.7 percent from the floor and committed 11 turnovers.
It all added up to a 31-20 lead at halftime for the Tigers.
But getting those 31 points for Clemson was a chore in itself.
The Tigers had just 16 points over the first 15 minutes of play, before scoring 16 over the final five minutes.
“That was huge for us going on that run at the end of the half,” Hamilton said. “We were a little sluggish at first.”
There’s little time for rest as Clemson goes at it again Friday night against Appalachian State.
“We’re ready to play five games in eight days,” Hamilton said. “We’re just glad to be back home and play some games in the crib.”