Tigers Face #16 Cincinnati Tonight

Clemson vs. Cincinnati Series
Cincinnati holds a 3-1 lead in the series with Clemson. This will be the third time in the series the two teams have met in Cincinnati. The two teams met last year in Anderson, SC and there was a neutral site game in Puerto Rico three years back (2000-01 season).

The first game took place in Cincinnati during the 1927-28 season and the Bearcats came away with a 42-16 victory. It was the third road game in as many nights for Clemson, who also lost to Kentucky Wesleyan and Kentucky on the same trip (Dec. 15-17, 1927). Cincinnati went on to a 14-4 record that year and won the Buckeye Athletic Conference, while Clemson lost 10 of its first 11 games that year before finishing 9-14.

A Bearcat team that finished 17-9 and was led by captain Derrick Dickey defeated Clemson 93-64 in 1971-72. Dickey had 14 points in that game for Cincinnati. Then Clemson head coach Tates Locke had ties to Ohio and that was the reason Clemson made the trip without a return game. Clemson was led by David Angel with 13 points and nine rebounds. The Tigers finished the season 10-16.

In the 2000-01 academic year, Chris Hobbs's freshman season, the two teams met in the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic in San Juan. Clemson gave a Bearcat team a strong outing before losing, 88-80. Cincinnati went on to a 25-10 record that year, including the championship of the Puerto Rico Classic. Clemson finished with a 12-19 record that year.

Clemson made a late charge at Cincinnati, but the comeback bid fell short in that 88-80 Bearcat victory on December 21, 2000 in a semifinal game of the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic in San Juan. Cincinnati, ranked 20th by USA Today/ESPN entering the game, led by as many as 18 points with 13:08 left to play. But, All-ACC guard Will Solomon shot Clemson back into the contest. At one point Solomon scored 14 of 16 Clemson points that pulled the Tigers to within two points with 4:38 left.

But, Cincinnati then started to control the boards and moved the lead back to 10 points with a minute left before winning by eight.

Kenny Satterfield led Cincinnati with 22 points and eight assists, while Steve Logan added 18 points. Solomon ended the game with 32 points, including five made three-point shots, and was 9-11 from the foul line. Tony Stockman, now back in the Buckeye state as a starter at Ohio State, added 12 points off the bench for Clemson.

Last Year's Game in Review
Clemson record its biggest win of the non-conference season in a 58-51 win over Bob Huggins Cincinnati Bearcats on December 22. It was the first time Clemson had beaten Cincinnati in basketball after three straight defeats. Cincinnati entered the season as the second winningest team in college basketball in the decade of the 2000s and went on to the NCAA Tournament. It was quite an upset for Larry Shyatt's team as Cincinnati had just beaten a fifth ranked Oregon team on a neutral floor in New Jersey.

Edward Scott led Clemson with 20 points and six assists, while Chey Christie added 12 points and five rebounds. Olu Babalola scored 11 on 3-5 shooting and did not have a turnover in 32 minutes. Chris Hobbs had a strong game with eight points on 4-5 shooting and contributed seven rebounds.

Leonard Stokes led Cincinnati with 15 points, but the Bearcats shot just 34.5 percent from the field for the game. That included a 3-17 showing on three-point shots. Clemson also won the rebounding 39-31 and the Tigers made 19-26 free throws for 73 percent, the team's best free throw performance of the season.

Although Clemson never had more than a 10-point lead, the Tigers held the lead for all but 2:21 of the game. Cincinnati never had the lead in the second half. Clemson jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the first five minutes thanks to five points by Christie. Cincinnati took the lead three times in the first half, including 23-22 with 2:14 left in the half. Clemson then took a 26-25 lead at intermission on two free throws by Christie.

Scott did not score in the first half and was 0-7 with three turnovers, his worst half of the year. He followed that with his best half of the season, as he scored 20 of Clemson's 32 second half points and shot 7-11 from the field. Clemson scored the first seven points of the second half to take a 33-25 lead.

The two teams battled defensively over the next 10 minutes, but Cincinnati came back to tie the count at 47-47 with 5:06 left on a jumper by Jason Maxiell, who scored 11 points in the contest. Scott then took over. He scored five straight on a couple of driving shots and a free throw to complete a conventional three-point play to give Clemson a 52-47 lead. Clemson outscored Cincinnati 11-4 over the final 4:36 and Scott scored nine of the 11 points. Clemson held a 58-49 lead, its largest of the game with 13 seconds left on two free throws by Scott. The Bearcats scored a meaningless bucket with five seconds left.

Clemson vs. Conference USA
Clemson has a 7-13 all-time record against teams from Conference USA. Clemson has three of its seven wins against UNC Charlotte, as the Tigers are 3-1 lifetime against the 49ers.

In addition to the 1-3 record against Cincinnati, and the above mentioned 3-1 mark vs. UNCC, Clemson is 0-2 against Louisville, 1-2 vs. Marquette, 1-0 vs. TCU, 0-1 vs. UAB and 1-4 vs. Tulane. This is Clemson's first game vs. a Conference USA team since last year's game with Cincinnati.

Bowden, Huggins both from West Virginia
Clemson head football coach Tommy Bowden and Cincinnati head basketball coach Bob Huggins were contemporaries at the University of West Virginia in the 1970s. Bowden is a 1976 West Virginia graduate, while Huggins is a 1977 graduate of the same institution. Bowden was a walk-on on the West Virginia football team during the same period Huggins was on the basketball team. According to Bowden, they were in classes together at West Virginia and went through student teaching at the same time, at different schools in the same area of Pennsylvania.

Both have been very successful. Bowden is the eighth winningest active coach in Division I college football and Huggins is the sixth winningest active coach in Division I college basketball.

Purnell Facing top Coaches
When Oliver Purnell came to Clemson one of the attractions was facing the challenges as an ACC coach and going up against some very well respected opposing coaches. He has had the opportunity to match wits with some celebrated coaches even before he coaches his first game against an ACC team.

He has already had to face Gene Keady of Purdue, the 15th winningest active coach in college basketball on a total victories basis. On Wednesday night he will face Bob Huggins, the sixth winningest active coach on a winning percentage basis. Later this year he will face Roy Williams or North Carolina twice. Williams ranks first among winningest active coaches on a percentage basis with a .805 mark. He will also face Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, who is fifth among winningest active coaches on a percentage basis and sixth on a total victories basis. Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser is also 15th in the nation on a winning percentage basis.

Purnell against Cincinnati
Clemson coach Oliver Purnell has faced Cincinnati six times previously, all as the head coach at Dayton. Last season was a good season for Clemson and Purnell against Cincinnati. Both Clemson and Purnell had never beaten Cincinnati prior to the 2002-03 season.

Purnell was 0-5 against Cincinnati and coach Bob Huggins prior to last season, then came away with a 75-69 victory, the first loss of the season for the Bearcats. Later in the month, Clemson, who had been 0-3 lifetime against Cincinnati, came away with a 58-51 win in Anderson, SC. Purnell was 1-3 in Dayton and 0-2 at Cincinnati against the Bearcats during his career as Dayton head coach.

Clemson vs. East Tennessee State Review
Clemson overcame a seven point deficit in the last two minutes of regulation, then won the overtime period by a 18-4 score and came away with a 100-86 victory over East Tennessee State on December 15. The victory broke a three-game losing streak for the Tigers. The victory improved Clemson's record in Littlejohn Coliseum against Southern Conference schools to 67-4. It was just the second overtime victory for Clemson in the last seven years.

The Tigers had many outstanding performances in the victory. Two players had double-doubles and two players nearly recorded triple doubles. Sharrod Ford had 21 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots in his 33 minutes. He might have had the two more blocks for a triple double had he not gotten into foul trouble, leading to a platoon system by Oliver Purnell over the last five minutes that limited his opportunities on defense.

Chris Hobbs also had a double-double, a bakers dozen double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. It was a strong comeback game for Hobbs, who did not score in 30 minutes against Georgia the previous game.

Clemson had solid play at the guard position from Shawan Robinson and Vernon Hamilton. Robinson came off the bench to score 19 points, pull down eight rebounds and record eight assists. It was his career high figure in all three of the major categories. Hamilton, a first-year freshman, had just two points at the half, but finished with 18. A 25 percent free throw shooter entering the game, Hamilton made 8-10 in the game and scored eight points in the overtime to key the victory.

Olu Babalola added 16 points and five rebounds. His short jumper with 10 seconds left sent the game into overtime. Akin Akingbala added eight points on 4-5 shooting and four rebounds in an efficient 16 minutes.

ETSU was led by pro prospect and Southern Conference preseason player of the year Zakee Wadood with 24 points, five assists and 10 steals. The 10 steals tied a Clemson opponent record and the Bucs 20 team steals were the most ever against Clemson in Littlejohn Coliseum.

Clemson dominated the rebounding 53-25 and the +28 rebound margin was the best by a Clemson team since he Tigers had a +30 margin against Wagner in the 1988-89 season. That year Dale Davis and Elden Campbell patrolled the inside for the Tigers.

Clemson committed 25 turnovers, which led to 30 East Tennessee State points. Clemson did shoot 55 percent from the field, 38 percent from three-point range and made 11-13 free throws in the overtime to counteract the miscues.

The game was a constant game of seven and eight-point runs. ETSU jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the early going, hitting each of their first four shots from the field. The Bucs led 26-16 at the 10:11 mark and it appeared Murry Bartow's team would score well over 100 before the night was over. But, Clemson went on a 10-0 run to tie the score at the 7:09 mark on a free throw by Chris Hobbs. Clemson then took a 42-35 lead with 2:13 left in the half, but could not finish. A 6-0 run brought ETSU to within a point at intermission.

Clemson held multiple seven-point leads in the second half, the last at 69-62 with 6:32 left on a dunk by Ford. But, ETSU went on a 10-0 run to take a 72-69 lead with 4:00 left. It was 81-74 with 2:11 left after Brad Nuckles made a three-point goal from the left side, his third three of the game. He was 1-9 from long distance entering the game.

But, Clemson battled back and tied the game on Babalola's field goal with 10 seconds left. The overtime was 88-86 in favor of Clemson with 2:58 left. Clemson put the game out of reach on a steal by Robinson, and a tip-pass by Babalola back to Robinson for the score. Clemson went on a 12-0 run to end the game.

Tigers Drive Ford to Victory
Clemson center Sharrod Ford is certainly stepping up his game to a new level this year. The junior had his best all-around game in the overtime victory against East Tennessee State. Ford had 21 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots in the victory in just 33 minutes. Ford had six offensive rebounds, hit a perfect 6-6 field goals and was 9-11 from the foul line. The free throw performance might have been the most impressive aspect of his stat line. Ford was just a 45 percent free throw shooter entering the game. But, he made eight in a row at one point, the longest free throw streak by a Clemson player during a game this year.

Ford led the Tigers in scoring, rebounding, free throws, offensive rebounds and blocked shots in that game. For the season, Ford leads Clemson in scoring (13.9), rebounding (9.4), and blocked shots (3.4). He is second in field goal percentage with a .623 figure. From an ACC standpoint, Ford is 17th in scoring, second in field goal percentage, third in rebounding, second in blocked shots, third in defensive rebounds and sixth in offensive rebounds.

In the latest NCAA stats through games of December 15, Ford is 15th in the nation in blocked shots with a 3.4 per game average. He is a big reason Clemson is 15th as a team with 6.6 blocks per game.

For his career, Ford is now shooting .589 from the field on 186-316. He is not listed on the chart of Clemson career field goal percentage leaders because the list requires 200 made field goals. But, he is just 14 field goals away from qualifying. If he continues his current pace he will jump in on the list min third place, trailing only Harold Jamison and Horace Grant, and just ahead of Dale Davis. All three of those players made it to the NBA.

Frontline back on Track
Clemson's starting frontline of Olu Babalola, Chris Hobbs and Sharrod Ford are all averaging in double figures for the season. The group collectively is averaging 36.8 points and 23.5 rebounds per game. The group was disappointed in their performance against Georgia as the trio combined for just nine points and 15 rebounds in the loss in Philips Arena.

But, the three players came back with a strong effort against ETSU just two days later. Ford, Hobbs and Babalola had 50 points on 17-27 field goal shooting and pulled in 32 rebounds in the 14-point overtime victory.

Tigers lead ACC, 16h in nation in rebounding Clemson is ranked 16th in the nation in rebound margin through games of December 15. Clemson is coming off +28 rebound margin in the win over East Tennessee State, tied for the seventh best rebound margin in Clemson history. The Tigers have already had two of the top 10 rebounding games in school history in the first seven games of the season. Clemson was a +27 win the win over Gardner Webb to open the season.

Clemson's +9.4 rebound margin would be a school record if the season ended today. The mark is a +8.2 rebounds per game established by the 1998-99 Clemson team that advanced to the NIT finals. That was also the last Clemson team to win 20 games in a season.

Clemson has done a good job on the boards so far this year. Clemson has won the rebound margin stat in five of the first seven games. Georgia and Wofford out-rebounded Clemson by four and three caroms, respectively. Clemson currently has three of the top nine rebounders in the ACC. Sharrod Ford is third at 9.4 per game, Chris Hobbs is eighth at 7.1 and Olu Babalola is ninth at 7.0 per game.

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