Postgame Press Conference
Following Clemson’s blowout loss to North Carolina Wednesday night, Purnell lit into his team something fierce Thursday. He literally challenged their toughness and manhood and called out every player during a team meeting.
However, he didn’t stop there.
Purnell then held individual meetings with the core players and then dished out one of the hardest and most grueling practices the team’s had in a long, long time. He wanted to see what kind of intestinal fortitude they have.
Purnell got his answer as the No. 16 Tigers blitzed through Boston College 74-54 Saturday afternoon at a soldout Littlejohn Coliseum. Clemson played with emotion, had a very nice defensive performance and was sharp offensively.
There was very little the team didn’t do well in improving to 18-2 overall and 4-2 in the ACC.
“We have a formula,” Purnell said. “You have to play smart and hard. We played hard against North Carolina, but we didn’t play smart. This was a test game and they passed the test.”
None was happier with his team’s performance than senior point guard Vernon Hamilton, who like so many of his teammates put together a stellar game.
Hamilton finished with 13 points, three assists and two steals, but it was his control of the offense in the second half and defensive pressure on Eagles point guard Tyrese Rice that was most impressive.
Rice was forced into committing eight turnovers.
“There definitely was a lot of yelling and a lot of screaming,” Hamilton said of Thursday’s meeting. “Coach challenged us. It was a tough two days. In the team meeting, he went down the line and got on everybody.”
Clemson forward Sam Perry said Purnell’s antics were exactly what the team needed. He said it helped drive home the point that this isn’t Tigers basketball of old. Losing is unacceptable.
“We had some feistiness in practice, which was good,” Perry said. “We needed to get after each other. We had gotten a little complacent with our record. We just needed a kick in the butt. We went away from our identity.”
Perry responded with one of his best games of the season. He had nine points, two steals, a block and put forth a good defensive effort on Boston College’s leading scorer Jared Dudley, who finished with only 13 points.
Throughout his tenure at Clemson, Purnell has stressed two things that he says are important for success in the ACC. Teams must win at home and they must avoid three-game losing streaks. The Tigers did both on Saturday.
Clemson got back to basics by issuing a stingy and pesky defense, which forced the Eagles (13-5, 5-1 ACC) into bad shots and a ton of turnovers.
Boston College finished with 21 turnovers and made just seven field goals in the second half. Conversely, the Tigers had just eight turnovers for the entire game and only two in the second half. They also shot 50.8 percent from the field, including 9-of-18 from 3-point range.
“I think we wanted to come out and make a statement that it doesn’t have to be a close game,” Clemson guard Cliff Hammonds said. “We got beat pretty bad the other night and we wanted to come out and prove ourselves.”
Hammonds almost single handedly propelled the Tigers to the lead at halftime. When they were struggling to make a shot, Hammonds came to the rescue and buried 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. He finished with 17 points.
Amazingly enough, Boston College shot 65 percent from the field, but trailed 41-33 at halftime.
“I just got some open looks today,” Hammonds said. “They just fell for me.”
Hammonds also attributes the team’s improved play to Purnell’s “tough love.”
“We all know what our goals are and we hadn’t been focused on them,” Hammonds said. “He got us refocused real quick.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cliff Hammonds
Hammonds carried the team in the first half by scoring 14 of his 17 points. And when Boston College guarded him more closely in the second half, he dished out four assists. He finished the game making 6-of-8 shots, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. He had five assists and two steal in 30 minutes of play.
TURNING POINT: Leading 32-30 with 90 seconds left in the first half, Clemson went on a 9-3 run to build an eight-point lead at halftime at 41-33. During that run, Hammonds hit a seven-footer, James Mays stuck back an offensive rebound, Vernon Hamilton drilled a 3-pointer and K.C. Rivers had a steal for a breakaway layup.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We should be a tough out here. We should win. … If we’re a good team, we should win this game. And I think we are a good team,” Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said.