Tigers Rally Past Wofford, 84-77

What started out to be another pre Atlantic Coast Conference "warm up" game, turned into a fierce battle Saturday afternoon in Littlejohn Coliseum. The Wofford Terriers jumped out to a 10-point second half lead, before crumbling beneath the pressure of a 17-2 Clemson run, to fall 84-77.

Junior forward Sharrod Ford led the way with a career high 25 points for the Tigers.

Wofford jumped ahead early in the contest, but the Tigers would rally to tie the game at 8 behind a Sharrod Ford slam and medium range jumper. The Terriers would continue to give the Tigers fits however, jumping out to a 21-12 lead just 9 minutes into the game behind an aggressive man-to-man defense.

Wofford would maintain their 9-point advantage up until the 7-minute mark when the Tigers began to seize the momentum.

Chris Hobbs made a free throw and Chey Christie converted a fast break lay-up to pull the Tigers within 4. Sharrod Ford would follow that with a slam and a steal, and Vernon Hamilton completed the comeback with a 10-foot jumper to pull the Tigers even at 28 with just over 5 minutes remaining in the first half.

Wofford would close the half on an 8-4 run however, to pull ahead 41-37 at the break.

The Terriers would extend their lead to 9 points in the second half and maintain it all the way through the 11-minute mark. In fact, with exactly 11 minutes left, Wofford was out to its biggest lead of the game at 59-49.

And then, for whatever reason, the Tigers finally woke up from their Thanksgiving hibernation. Clemson responded to the 10-point deficit with a crowd pleasing 17-2 run to turn a potential nightmare into a hard fought victory.

Sharrod Ford followed his own shot for one basket, Olu Babolola added a free throw, Ford added another free throw, Hobbs converted an offensive rebound into 2 points, and Ford again scored on a driving lay-up to pull the Tigers within 2 at 59-57.

The Tigers finally tied the game at 61 with just over 7 and a half minutes left, and then Chey Christie drilled a three pointer for the Tigers first lead since early in the first half at 64-61.

Sharrod Ford continued his slam-fest with 2 tomahawk jams to increase the Tigers lead to 7, and there was no looking back. Despite missing most of their free throws down the stretch, and even though Wofford would pull within 3 points on three occasions in the closing minutes, they would never get any closer.

"We knew that that Wofford would be a dangerous basketball team coming into this game," said Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell afterwards. "All of their players can shoot the three, and we watched them take Tennessee all the way down to the wire on tape, so this is really no suprise for us."

With the win, the Tigers improve to 3-0 on the season. Clemson will now travel to Purdue to face the Boilermakers in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge Wednesday night at 7:30.

Other Notes
* The ACC has now moved to a 27-0 record on the season as a whole.

* Former Clemson basketball player Tony Christie was in attendance to watch his younger brother in action.

* Freshman point guard Vernon Hamilton has the build of a player that's been through at least two seasons in the ACC. Very strong, solid ball handler. He's also an aggressive defender and likes to the force the action on the offensive end. Hamilton struggled from the line down the stretch, converting on only 3-of-6 free throws in the final two minutes of the game.

"Any time we can get Vernon in the free throw area, we're happy with that. But when he can get down there in the paint, he's got free reign to do what he wants," said Purnell.

* Fellow freshman Jimmy Hudson got in the game with just under 15 minutes remaining in the second half.

* Oliver Purnell was given a technical foul at the 17:56 mark of the second half after yelling at an official for an offensive foul call on Chey Christie.

* The Tigers' interior passing game looks much better than what it did just a year ago. Sharrod Ford and Chris Hobbs seem to find each other on the opposite ends of the post with regularity.

* At the 5:43 mark in the first half, Chris Hobbs went across press row diving for a lose ball. He was on the ground for a full minute before getting up under his own power and later returned to action.

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