Tigers Remain Perfect

CLEMSON – Had the Clemson basketball team played as well as it did over the final 14 minutes of play, its game against Charleston Southern would have been over by halftime.

The Tigers were sluggish for the first 36 minutes, but for the rest of the way, they were pretty darn good, as they went on to the 74-50 victory Friday night at Littlejohn Coliseum.

"I thought it was a real trap game for us because of where it was, having played Mississippi State and then the two teams (Minnesota and South Carolina) we play next week," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "This was the time that you ideally would have been ripe for the upset."

Clemson remains perfect on the season by improving to 7-0 and is tied with Maryland for the most wins in the nation. The Buccaneers drop to 3-3.

With the Tigers squandering a double-digit lead and holding a 35-34 advantage with 14:19 left to play, they found their stroke offensively and tightened the reigns defensively.

From that point, Clemson went on a 17-0 run over the next 6:14 to build a 52-34 lead with 8:05 remaining.

The game was essentially over.

"That was what really put the game away," said Clemson point guard Vernon Hamilton. "We were finally able to find guys and make some shots."

Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh said if he had it to do over again, he would have given his players a breather when the Tigers started their run.

"I should have called a timeout," he said. "We had exhausted a lot of energy to cut into the lead. They have great sparkability. I wish I would have called a time out."

The Tigers got balance production from their starters and bench.

Forward James May and guard K.C. Rivers each led Clemson in scoring with 12, while freshman reserve David Potter added 10.

It also helped that the Tigers kept control of the ball. They had a season-low nine turnovers, while forcing Charleston Southern into 19.

Hamilton had a solid all-around game by scoring nine points, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out six assists. He also had two steals.

"We are a balanced scoring team," Purnell said. "The rebounding by the guards is really nice to see. It's great to see our guards get in there and get some rebounds."

The lackluster performance by the Tigers was evident from the get-go as they led just 6-2 with 11:30 left in the first half.

The scoring did manage to pick up for both teams, but Clemson was never able to put the Buccaneers away and held a precarious 27-22 advantage with 52 seconds remaining until intermission.

However, over the final minute of play, the Tigers were able to gain some breathing room and pushed the lead up to 31-22 at the break.

But just by looking at the numbers, Clemson should have had a much bigger lead. It forced the Buccaneers into 14 turnovers in the first half. The Tigers also added five blocks, but nonetheless, it was just a three possession game.

What hurt the Tigers was poor shooting from the field (37.8 percent) and from beyond the three-point arc (21.4 percent).

Even with the substandard performance for the first 35 minutes, Purnell was very happy with the way his team responded down the stretch.

The players weren't about to let this one turn into one of those ugly losses.

"We didn't want it to be one of those Elon-type basketball games," Hamilton said, referring to last year's big loss at home. "When we're scoring off our defense, we're hard to deal with."