Clemson - Virginia News & Notes

Clemson point guard Vernon Hamilton will return to his home state on Tuesday evening when the Tigers face Virginia at University Hall. Hamilton is a a native of Richmond, VA who attended Benedictine High School.

Hamilton Returns to Virginia
Clemson point guard Vernon Hamilton will return to his home state on Tuesday evening when the Tigers face Virginia at University Hall. Hamilton is a a native of Richmond, VA who attended Benedictine High School. He led the team to the first VISBA Division I championship in the school history. The team won the Virginia State Catholic League Championship and he was the Most Outstanding Player of that tournament.

Hamilton is just the third Clemson men's basketball player from the state of Virginia in the school's ACC history, just the second scholarship player. Hamilton is the first Tiger from Virginia since Jo Jo Bethea came to Clemson from Newport News. He played for the Tigers for two seasons (1973-74 and 1974-75). Bethea averaged 4.9 points per game for his 53 career games and was Clemson's starting point guard on the schools first post season tournament team. He averaged 6.4 points per game in 1974-75 Tiger team that played in the NIT.

The only other Clemson basketball player from Virginia was walk-on Jeff Jenrette, a native of Blacksburg, VA, who played just one game in 1987-88.

Hamilton has made a strong impact as a first-year freshman on the Clemson team. He has started all 15 games so far this season and leads the Tigers in assists (57) and steals (35). He has averaged 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. His rebound average is the second best by a Clemson point guard over the last 19 years. Only Edward Scott's season average of 4.9 rebounds per game two years ago is higher among players who have started at the position since Vincent Hamilton had a 6.9 average in 1984-85.

Clemson Coaches Have Virginia Ties
While Clemson has a player with ties to the state of Virginia, Clemson has four members of its coaching and administrative staff with ties to that state. Head Coach Oliver Purnell, played his college basketball at Old Dominion from 1972-75 and led the Monarchs to the Division II National Championship in 1975. Purnell served as an assistant coach at Old Dominion from 1975-76 through 1984-85, and was the head coach at his alma mater from 1991-92 through 1993-94. Purnell was also the head coach at Radford from 1988-89 through 1990-91.

Associate Head Coach Dr. Ron Bradley also coached in the state of Virginia. He served as the head coach at Radford from 1991-02. He was also an associate head coach at James Madison in 2002-03.

Assistant coach Frank Smith was born in Alexandria, VA and went to Mt. Vernon High School in Alexandria. He then attended Old Dominion where he was a star on the basketball team from 1984-88. He is still ranked in the top 20 in NCAA history in assists. As a coach, Smith worked at Old Dominion as an assistant coach in 1988-89 and from 1991-94. He also worked at Radford for the 1990-91 season. Assistant coach Kevin Nickelberry, attended Virginia Wesleyan College, where he played from 1982-84. He earned a degree in 1986 from that school.

Assistant AD for basketball operations Ben D'Alessandro was born in Charlottesville, VA in 1973 and attended Western Albemarle High School. A graduate and former player at Providence College in Rhode Island, he served as a graduate assistant at Virginia under Pete Gillen in 1998-99. He was also an assistant coach at James Madison in 1999-03.

Purnell Has Coached against Virginia Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell has coached four times against Virginia, once as the head coach at Radford and three times when he was at Old Dominion. Purnell posted a 1-3 record in those four games, but he won the most recent meeting. He faced former Virginia coach Jeff Jones in all four games.

Virginia defeated Purnell's Radford team 87-54 in 1990-91. Each of the next three years he faced the Cavaliers as Old Dominion's head coach. He lost to Jones team 83-67 in 1991-92 and by a 90-68 score in 1992-93. In 1993-94 Virginia finally came to Old Dominion and Purnell got the win 76-69.

Clemson vs. NC State Review
Julius Hodge had 23 points and senior Marcus Melvin added 15 to lead NC State to an 86-69 victory over Clemson on January 17 at Raleigh's RBC Center. NC State improved to 10-3 overall, 3-1 in the ACC with the victory, while Clemson fell to 8-7 overall, 1-3 in the ACC.

Three-point shooting was the key for the Wolfpack as Herb Sendek's team made 7-15, including 4-8 in the first half when NC State took a 17-point lead at intermission. Over the last five meetings between Clemson and NC State the Pack has made 59 three-point goals, compared to just 12 by Clemson.

Clemson held NC State to 47 percent shooting, the 15th straight time Clemson has held an opponent under 50 percent shooting this season. The Tigers made 45.1 percent for the game, including 48 percent in the second half when the Tigers made 15 field goals and scored 47 points.

Sharrod Ford led the Tigers with 20 points on 8-15 shooting from the field and 4-4 from the foul line. It was the most points Ford has ever scored in an ACC game and it was his third career 20-point scoring game overall. He has now made 31-38 free throws over the last seven games. He also had three blocked shots.

Two other Tigers scored in double figures for Clemson. Olu Babalola had his finest outing against an ACC team this year with 10 points, five assists and no turnovers. It was his first game without a turnover all year. He also had a team best six rebounds in his 30 minutes. Vernon Hamilton had 10 points, five rebounds and two steals and had just two turnovers. Shawan Robinson, a native of Raleigh, added eight points, while Akin Akingbala scored six points on 3-4 shooting.

Clemson scored the first bucket of the game on its first possession on a jumper by Ford, but the Pack then went on a14-0 run, the longest run of the year against Clemson, to take a 14-2 lead at the 14:16 mark. NC State kept that double digit margin the rest of the first half. Clemson cut the margin to 11 at 25-14 on a jumper by Babalola with 7:12 left, but the Pack ran the lead back to 18 at the 5:08 mark on two free throws by Engin Atsur.

NC State led 39-22 at intermission thanks in part to a 19-11 rebound margin. The Pack also forced 11 first half turnovers. NC State then ran the lead to 25 points at 67-42 with 10:34 left on a three-point goal by Ilian Evtimov.

Clemson continued to battle and forced some turnovers over the next six minutes and cut the lead back to 14 at 76-62 with 4:10 left. But the Tigers could not cut the margin any further. A layup by senior four-year walk-on Beau Shay with 26 seconds left cut the lead to 15 points and was certainly a bright spot for Clemson down the stretch. The victory was NCState's sixth in a row in the series, the fourth in a row in Raleigh.

Hobbs Has Played Well against Cavaliers
Clemson senior Chris Hobbs has played some of his best basketball as a Tiger against Virginia. In his six career games against the Cavaliers he has averaged 11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, shot 80 percent from the foul line and 59 percent from the field against Virginia. Those are above all his career averages of 8.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 54 percent field goal shooting and 62.5 percent free throw shooting.

Hobbs had his career high game against Virginia in Littlejohn Coliseum back on January 27, 2001, his freshman season. He was the highlight in a Clemson loss as he scored 28 points, on 10-13 field goal shooting and 8-9 free throw shooting. He also added nine rebounds in just 31 minutes. He had a 15-point game at Charlottesville as a sophomore on 5-8 field goal shooting and 5-5 free throw shooting. Last year in Clemson's two victories he had 12 points and 10 rebounds in 57 total minutes.

Ford Leads Tigers in Scoring and Rebounding Sharrod Ford was Clemson's top player at NC State with 20 points on 8-15 field goal shooting and 4-4 from the foul line. He also had three offensive rebounds and three blocked shots in 28 minutes. It was the top scoring game for Ford against an ACC team in his career and his third career 20-point scoring game overall. He had 25 against Wofford and 21 against East Tennessee State earlier this year.

Ford leads the Clemson team in scoring and rebounding so far this year with 11.6 and 7.4 averages respectively. The junior center is trying to become the first Tiger to lead Clemson in scoring and rebounding over the course of the same season since 1994-95 when Greg Buckner turned the trick.

Ford has made significant improvement each year he has been at Clemson. He has improved his scoring average from 7.5 last year to 11.6 so far this season. His rebound average and blocked shots per game are also improved. He has made the most significant improvement this year in terms of free throw shooting, an important area for Ford because he has shot more free throws than any other Tiger this year.

Ford had one of the top all-around games by a Tiger earlier this year when he had 21 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots in Clemson's 100-86 overtime victory against East Tennessee State. His 25 points against Wofford in the third game of the season is the high total for a Clemson player this year.

In 2003-04 he is shooting .618 from the line, up from his career .458 figure for his first 58 games at Clemson. He is on the top free throw shooting streak of his career over the last seven games, as he has made 31-38 during that time (.816).

Clemson Defense Has Shown Improvement
Clemson has shown improvement in terms of field goal percentage this year under Oliver Purnell. Clemson opponents are shooting just .413 from the field against the Tigers this year, compared to a .433 figure for last season. That is also the case in three-point shooting as Clemson has held opponents to .321 three-point shooting this year, compared with a .344 figure last year.

In two ACC games against top five teams, Clemson has held Duke and Wake Forest to 9-35 three-point shooting, a .257 figure. Clemson held Florida State to 6-20 three-point shooting for .300. The Seminoles entered the game shooting an ACC best 41 percent from three-point range. FSU shot just 37 percent for the game overall in Clemson's victory, 10 percentage points below their season average.

Last year Clemson allowed ACC opponents to shoot .365 from three-point range. Clemson held Wake Forest to 2-13 three-point shooting on January 10, the fewest three-point goals and lowest percentage by Wake Forest this year.

A more of an intimidating presence on the inside has had something to do with the improved defense. Clemson has 71 blocked shots in 15 games this year. The Tigers had just 74 in 28 games all of last season. Sharrod Ford is a big reason for that with 38 blocks in 15 games. He had just 19 all of last year. He is ranked 21st in the nation this week in blocked shots per game through games of January 12.

No team has shot at least 50 percent against Clemson this year and only four teams, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Duke and NC State have bettered the 47 percent mark. Three of those teams are ranked in the top 10 in the nation. One of Clemson's best defensive performances was against Boston College, a team ranked in the top 20 of the RPI. Clemson held the Eagles to 33 percent field goal shooting for the game.

Clemson vs. Virginia Series
Virginia holds a 59-46 advantage in the series with Clemson, a series that dates to 1936 when Clemson won at Charlottesville, 45-34. That was the only meeting between the two teams prior to the formation of the ACC. Since 1955 Clemson and Virginia have met at least twice per season. Virginia had won four straight meetings prior to the Clemson win at Littlejohn in 2001-02. Since then Clemson has won three of four. Over the last 16 meetings the teams have won eight apiece.

Clemson had a series sweep against Virginia last year, one of just two season sweeps for Clemson over the last five complete seasons. The other was against NC State in 1999-00.

Clemson's win over Virginia at Clemson last year was noteworthy. Clemson won the game 78-77, the school's first one-point victory since the 1991-92 season when it defeated Florida State 68-67 in a game at Clemson. Clemson had lost nine consecutive games decided by one point.It was also a landmark occasion in that Clemson had posted a 3-15 record in games decided by five points or less over the last 30 years against Virginia prior to that game.

For a period of time the series featured many close games. In the 1980s, 11 games were decided by five points or less, including nine that were decided by two or one point. In the 1990s, just five were decided by five or less.

Tigers 4-21 at University Hall since 1978-79 Prior to Clemson's win last year, University Hall had been a building of horrors for Clemson the last 24 years. Clemson had a 3-21 record in the building between 1978-79 and 2001-02 and all three wins had come in special seasons.

The Tigers won in 1987 (on Valentine's Day) by a 94-90 score thanks to a late three-point goal in overtime by Horace Grant, the only three-point goal of his career, and with the help of a late four-point play by Anthony Jenkins. Clemson finished with a school record 25 wins that year.

In 1990, Clemson gained victory 76-70 behind Dale Davis and Elden Campbell. Cliff Ellis's Tigers claimed the school's only ACC regular season championship that year. In 1996-97, the Tigers defeated a 25th-ranked Virginia team, 62-52. That Clemson team, went on to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and won 23 games. Clemson had a 15-13 season last year, but won in Charlottesville 73-64 behind 32 points by All-ACC guard Edward Scott.

There have been some unusual shooting games for Clemson in the building. The two worst shooting games in Clemson history have taken place in University Hall. In Cliff Ellis's final season, the Tigers shot just 15-63 in the building (.238) the worst shooting performance in Clemson history, in a 50-44 loss. A storm hit the Charlottesville area the day before the game and prohibited Clemson from arriving on Friday for the Saturday game. Clemson went to the Anderson Airport at 8:00 AM on Saturday, flew to Charlottesville, went straight to the arena for the 12:00 Noon game, shot 24 percent, and returned to Clemson by 6:00 PM.

The next year, Rick Barnes's first season, Clemson made just 12-50, and the .240 is the second worst field goal percentage in Clemson history.

In 1993 at Virginia, Clemson scored just 16 points in the first half on 6-36 shooting, then scored 66 in the second half, the highest scoring second half in Clemson history in an ACC game, but still lost 100-82.

In 1984 at Charlottesville, Clemson shot .675 from the field on 27-40 shooting, but still suffered defeat 77-70. That is the second highest field goal percentage in school history in a loss. Clemson was 16-20 from the field at the half in that game (80 percent), but still trailed at intermission by seven (40-33).

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