An Evening Diary: Purnell's First Road Game

The Oliver Purnell era at Clemson took a giant leap forward Wednesday night as the Tigers faced the #20 ranked Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette.

The Tigers are off to a 3-0 start on the young season, but admittedly the opposition has been weak and the Clemson wins have not been dominating. The Tigers will have a chance to make an early statement in the Atlantic Coast Conference by picking up a road win against a top 20 team.

Here is a minute-by-minute breakdown of how the game went and the emotions that were encountered along the way.

7:30 p.m.
ESPN comes on the air with Chris Fowler and Digger Phelps in studio. It takes less than 30 seconds before Chris Fowler is badgering Clemson's wins against High Point and Wofford on the young season.

He also mentions that the home team has won every meeting in the Big 10/ACC Challenge so far this year. Ominous omen to start the broadcast if you are a Clemson fan.

7:43 p.m.
Clemson is down 9-8 after the first timeout. A big crowd at Mackey Arena in Indiana as Sharrod Ford misses a dunk but redeems himself with a massive block early. Clemson needs to defend the three-point line better as all of Purdue's points are from behind the arc.

7:54 p.m.
Chris Hobbs commits two dumb fouls in the span of 2 minutes. Clemson is not defending the 3-point line very well at all. Both are common mistakes that were made last year…Tigers trail 18-8.

8:01 p.m.
Tigers continue to get good looks but can't buy a basket. At the 7:44 minute mark, the Tigers have made only one basket since the 16-minute mark. That is another characteristic of last year's team. Tigers trail 22-10.

8:13 p.m.
An 18-2 run by Purdue is stopped by a Chey Christie basket. Shawan Robinson has two nice running jump shots. Clemson trims a 14-point lead down to 30-18 with 3:48 left in the first half. The Tigers need to get this thing under 10 by halftime to have a shot of staying in the game.

8:20 p.m.
Other than a nice 15-foot jumper by Ford, Clemson continues to struggle and fails to get the lead under 10 at halftime. Purdue leads 39-28 and if not for turnovers, it could be worse. Unfortunately, I don't see much from Clemson in the first half that shows obvious improvements from a year ago. Still a half to go, and there is still time to make a run. Let's see if this team can do it.

8:52 p.m.
Second half starts out about like the first half ended. Vernon Hamilton looks pretty smooth at the point for a true freshman on the road. Chris Hobbs gets a lane violation while we are shooting a free throw. Arggghhhh. Clemson is down 13 points at 48-35 and still searching for a run.

8:59 p.m.
Still no run. Clemson has started playing some zone that seems to be working pretty well. Purdue's defense is smothering. Clemson is trailing Purdue 53-39.

9:03 p.m.
Shawan Robinson showing some nice penetration and touch from the 10 foot range, something he was not able to do much of last year. Clemson still down double digits at 53-41 with 11:39 to go in the game.

9:16 p.m.
Ford misses a lay up that would cut the lead to 8, but Clemson continues to play hard on defense. Chris Hobbs fouls out with 9:52 seconds to play…completely unacceptable for the senior whose leadership is desperately needed. Under 8 minutes to go in the game and Clemson has yet to make a 3 point basket. Purdue leads 61-50.

9:27 p.m.
The game is officially out of reach as Purdue stretches the lead to 17 with 3:59 to play in the game. Vernon Hamilton is not playing much, which is curious to me since I thought he was playing pretty well under the pressure of his starting on the road. Clemson still has yet to hit a three pointer.

9:42 p.m.
Nice run to finish the game as the Tigers refused to get run out of the building by Purdue. Lamar Rice hit a three pointer to break the 0-9 string from behind the arc and Clemson falls to Purdue 76-64. This was probably not what Oliver Purnell had in mind when he envisioned his first road game with Clemson, but it was what it was.

Clemson made too many of the mistakes that haunted them last year under Larry Shyatt Wednesday night, and those mistakes must be eliminated if Clemson plans to improve on the 15 win season of 2002.

Clemson can now return home and focus on South Carolina as the Gamecocks make a visit to Littlejohn Coliseum Saturday night. And a win Saturday will erase the frustration of this Wednesday night very quickly!

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