CLEMSON - The Tigers look to remain undefeated Sunday afternoon against Liberty.
Tigers Rally Against Pesky Flames
After watching Liberty convert 6-of-10 shots from three-point range in the first half before jumping out to a 62-50 lead early in the second, the Tigers buckled down defensively and used the timely shooting of K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby to hold off the pesky Flames Sunday afternoon in Littlejohn Coliseum, 80-75.
"I have a lot of admiration for their team," Purnell said. "They [Liberty] played yesterday and still had a lot of heart and energy. It was a struggle for us to win this game. We were not in sync defensively and we didn't wear them down."
Trailing by 10 with less than 10 minutes remaining, Oglesby ignited a 10-0 run by drilling two deep three pointer, taking a charge and threading the needle on a perfect behind-the-back assist to Demontez Stitt for easy layup to finally tie the game at 66 with 6:43 left.
Stitt would add a free throw to briefly give the Tigers a lead before Liberty responded with five quick points to regain control 71-67 with 3:45 remaining.
But a short jumper from the wing by David Potter and a three by Rivers gave the Tigers the lead for good with 2:26 left.
"It was an emotional game," Oglesby said. "Started off a little rough and when a team sags off like that a lot of us get pretty anxious and wanted to shoot it. But we came out and got energized at the end.
"It was just a droopy Sunday day when it comes to how we started but we finished well."
Aside from the lack of energy to open the game, Liberty kept the Tigers on their heels for most of the night by playing five guards to attack Clemson's traditional full court pressure.
And it worked, at least for the first 35 minutes of the game.
The Flames were a step faster and deadly from the outside, particularly Seth Curry, son of former NBA player Dell Curry and brother of Davidson's Stephon Curry. He led the Flames with 24 points.
"He's a good player," Oglesby said. "I think he's better off the dribble than he's brother is but his brother is probably better reading screens. He's a good player. I think anybody in that family can shoot."
K.C. Rivers finished with a game-high and season best 32 points for the Tigers.
"All year long he has been about toughness," Purnell said. "He refused to lose today, he kept scoring, rebounding and he was great defensively."
Afterwards both head coaches mentioned the upcoming rankings and the fact that Clemson should now be ranked among the top 25 teams in the country after jumping out to a 9-0 start.
"Clemson is as good a team as I have seen this season and we battled but just couldn't finish and get the stops we needed," said Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. "The crowd got energized at the end and we have to remember to finish and get stops. Clemson just has so many weapons, they are definitely a Top 25 team."
Purnell agreed, saying, "I'm very pleased with the season so far. I gave our team an ‘A' for the first third of the season. We have played some outstanding teams. I think we should be ranked tomorrow, I think we are one of the top 25 teams in the nation."
With the win Clemson improves to 9-0 while Liberty falls to 6-2.
The Tigers have the next five days off for exams before facing S.C. State next Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum. Tip-off is set for 2 PM.
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