CLEMSON – Cliff Hammonds is about as boring of a basketball player as there is. It’s the same thing with him every night, no ups or downs. Very rarely does he get rattled or make careless mistakes, and like clockwork, he routinely puts up the same steady numbers. Yawn.
Against Boston College, the senior Hammonds performed his typically dull ways. He came in averaging 10.4 points and he scored 14. He averages 4.1 rebounds and he grabbed four. Hammonds leads the team in steals on the season and he led the team with five in the game. He also added two assists and no turnovers.
Oh yeah, and just for good measure, Hammonds also locked down Boston College star point guard Tyrese Rice to lead Clemson to the 78-56 victory Saturday night at a sold out Littlejohn Coliseum.
“You know what you’re going to get with him every night,” Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. “You’re going to get his best effort each time out.”
Hammonds was asked to run the point guard position against the Eagles due to the absence of freshman Demontez Stitt, the usual starter who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday.
And as fully expected, Hammonds gave the Tigers (16-5, 4-3 ACC) everything they needed at the position and then some.
Offensively, he led the team in scoring, but it was his defense on Rice that was special. The junior managed to score 17 points, but nine of them came from the free throw line as he made only four baskets.
Hammonds also helped force Rice into six turnovers.
“We have a certain comfort level with Cliff running the point,” Purnell said. “He’s the face of our program. Whatever you ask him to do, he’s going to succeed. He’s the most underrated player in the league.”
The ever modest Hammonds said he didn’t do anything special, which to a degree is right. It was a typical night for him.
“I just tried to pressure (Rice) as much as I could,” he said. “It wasn’t a one-man effort. We did a great team job on him. If he got past me, everybody had my back.”
Hammonds is absolutely correct about that. The entire team played very good defense from start to finish, which is something that has been lacking the last few games.
Clemson’s defense has been suspect, especially in the early going lately and as a result the Tigers often found themselves trailing early. That certainly wasn’t the case against Boston College (12-8, 3-4 ACC) as Clemson led 36-31 at halftime.
The Tigers stifled and harassed the Eagles all game, especially Rice. And it wasn’t just by one or two players. Every single Clemson player that played got into the act.
Boston College, which basically has no inside game at all, committed 20 turnovers. The Tigers had only nine.
“There wasn’t one dead moment in the game,” said Tiger K.C. Rivers, who finished with 13 points. “Everybody was into it tonight.”
It also was a big night for the team as a whole, which played with a hampered Trevor Booker, who is nursing a sprained ankle. Even so, Booker had 10 points and seven rebounds, six of which were offensive.
He, along with sophomore David Potter, who came off the bench to score 11 points, helped key a 25-7 run midway through the second half to blow the game wide open.
The spurt was ignited by defense and offensive rebounding, which Clemson finished with a 21-10 advantage.
“I thought we grabbed the game by the throat with our defense,” Purnell said. “I thought the story was our defense and attacking the glass.”
Up next for the Tigers is a road trip Thursday night to lowly Virginia, which is in last place in the ACC at 11-9 overall and 1-6 in the conference.
“I think we’re back 100 percent,” Rivers said. “A game like this picks you up and lets you know that everything is going to be alright.”