CLEMSON - Head coach Oliver Purnell discusses Saturday night's loss to Florida State.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
Too bad nobody told that to Florida State.
After trailing virtually the entire game, upstart FSU (18-5, 5-3) stormed back with a furious rally to finally take the lead 60-59 with 2:01 remaining in the game before holding on to an incredible 65-61 victory.
The Seminoles ended the contest on a 23-4 run to steal a game it had to have to bolster it's NCAA Tournament hopes.
Welcome to the nation's best conference, the ACC, where anything can, and usually will happen on any given night.
Turns out Clemson was the last of the top four teams in the league to be upset, but that still doesn't make Saturday night's outcome any easier to stomach.
Even more painful is the fact the game was eerily reminiscent of Clemson's loss to Virginia two years ago on the very same court. That night the Tigers led by 16 with just over five minutes remaining before failing to score a point again in a one-point loss.
Saturday night's loss saw Clemson blew an 19-point second half lead in what surely could be best described as a devastating defeat.
"Obviously it's a disappointing loss here on our homecourt in a game that we had control of," said Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell. "We were in a situation where we weren't playing our best but still had control of the game. We just didn't play well from that time on on either end of the floor.
"It all goes together with us not being sharp. Give Florida State credit for just hanging in there because that's what you have to do. In the last six minutes, which is the time of the game we normally look forward to, we didn't do the things we needed to do."
Senior captain K.C. Rivers described it a little more harshly.
"We let down," K.C. Rivers said. "That's what happened. We are very ticked off because we relaxed. There's no question about it. Go back and watch the game- we relaxed."
Just like last Wednesday's easy win over No. 3 Duke, Clemson set the tone against Florida State early on defense, holding the Seminoles to just 30 percent from the field in the first half.
Terrence Oglesby made a three-pointer with 17:01 left in the first half to give the Tigers a working margin of eight points, and strangely enough, Clemson would maintain that lead for most of the game.
The Tigers, though, failed to score the last 4:48 of the first half, but still managed to take a 30-22 lead into halftime.
"I thought our guys were very tentative in the first half," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We turned the ball over too much. We attacked the press but once we got in the halfcourt we made poor decisions and turned the ball over."
Clemson seemingly made quick work of the Seminoles in the second half, scoring the first 10 points in just two minutes to bolt out to a 40-22 lead. Looking back, it may have been the worst thing that could have happened.
FSU quickly countered with a 9-0 run of its own just minutes later to make a game of it.
Demontez Stitt, who emerged out of a mini-scoring slump with 11 points, scored on a layup with 10:48 remaining while drawing the foul to put Clemson up by 12.
Briefly it looked like Clemson regained control, but Florida State wasn't close to being done yet.
A three-pointer by Toney Douglass with 5:35 pulled FSU within six and another layup by Douglass cut the lead back down to six again after a Trevor Booker layup just moments later.
After David Potter missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Chris Singleton trimmed the lead to four on a wide open dunk with 3:12 left. Finally, the 'Noles took the lead for the first time since 3-2 at 60-59 on layup with 2:01 remaining.
Douglass, who entered Saturday night's game leading the ACC in scoring in league games at over 20 points per game, struggled to find his shot early, connecting on just three of his first 11 attempts from the field, and was constantly harassed all evening long by Stitt, Andre Young and a host of other Tiger defenders.
But he proved big with the game on the line, making big play after big play to give FSU its first lead since the early stages of the game.
"We did a helluva job on him in the first half then in the second half he took control of the game," Purnell said.
By the time it was all over, Douglas had scored a game-high 23 points. Solomon Alabi added 17 to go along with nine rebounds and five blocks.
"Douglass made a lot of plays and they played with great intensity, but we should have played harder," Stitt said. "It could have been a statement game for us. We wanted to make a statement and we talked about it before the game about not wanting this to be a letdown game."
After Florida State regained the lead for the first time since the score was 3-2, the Tigers appeared to press and remained out of sync until the final horn sounded. Oglesby missed an open three-pointer and David Potter missed a driving shot in the lane to seal the deal.
By then the scoreboard said it all: Florida State 65 Clemson 61.
Purnell said afterwards the most disappointing aspect of the final score was his team's inability to not put the game away when the Tigers clearly had multiple opportunities to do just that.
"Being up 19 and not finishing the game off was the most disappointing thing. They finished with a 23-4 run. That's disappointing. We obviously didn't stop them and we didn't get great shots.
"We had some guys that were pressing- that weren't taking good shots. We weren't setting screens. It's not only about your misses."
The Tigers hit the road for their next outing, Tuesday night at Boston College, another dangerous team capable of beating any team in the league.
Tip-off at Conte Forum is set for 9:00.
"The last thing I told them is it's up to us to bounce back. Our attitude in tomorrow's practice is very important," Purnell said.
GAME NOTES: Florida State won at Clemson for the first time since 2001 after seven straight losses.
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