Tigers Get Needed Win

GREENVILLE – Regardless of what it looked like, the Clemson men's basketball team did exactly what it had to do. And thanks to stellar defense in the second half, the Tigers were able to do it rather easily. <br>

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Despite some sloppy offensive and defensive play, the Tigers were still able to cruise to the 59-42 non-conference victory over an undermanned Georgia team Wednesday night in front of 7,500 at the Bi-Lo Center.

"Overall, we played pretty well and it's nice to have something to show for it," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "I thought our guys kept their poise down the stretch and the score shows it."

Clemson improves to 12-12 on the season and needs three more wins in its final five to qualify for the NIT. The Bulldogs drop to 7-15.

The big run for the Tigers came in the second half when they put together a 27-9 run to break open a 30-27 game with less than 15 minutes remaining to a 57-36 advantage with 2:36 left to play.

During that time frame, Georgia was held without a field goal for 9:55 and scoreless 6:33.

"I felt that if our defense stays steady, we'll be alright," Purnell said. "I felt that we would eventually be able to score inside since we had such an advantage."

And that's exactly what happened as senior forward Sharrod Ford led all players with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Cheyenne Moore added 12 points and Cliff Hammonds chipped in with 11 for the Tigers, who have 10 wins outside of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"It felt real good not coming down to the wire," Clemson senior forward Sharrod Ford said. "It's nice to get a win like this."

The Bulldogs played with only five scholarship players in uniform, and one of them was playing with a sore knee and wearing a leg brace. It was so bad for Georgia that it had two players play 40 minutes and another 37, with two of them being walk-on players.

The Bulldogs were forced to play without usual starting guards Levi Stukes, out with an ankle injury, and Channing Tony, who has a strained hip flexor muscle.

"Injuries are part of the game that everybody endures," he said. "Thus, we've just got to stay focused on the guys that are playing the game. We knew we only were only six or seven guys deep. I've always been aware that we were an injury or two from having to use walk-ons. I've know that since the first day of practice."

But Georgia head coach Dennis Felton isn't about to start making excuses for his team's 31.1 percent field goal shooting against Clemson. The Tigers, meanwhile, shot 45.1 percent.

Sundiata Gaines had 11 points and Dave Bliss nine for Georgia.

To prove how much Georgia is struggling this season, the Tigers were held to just one made field goal over a span of 12:52, but the Bulldogs were never able to get any closer than three points during that time.

Each team struggled to find any semblance of an offense in the first half as Clemson shot just 41.7 percent from the field, but the Bulldogs were even worse at 34.8 percent.

Couple that with a combined 19 turnovers between the two teams and it's easy to understand why the score was so low at halftime with Clemson leading 30-22.

Clemson next plays Saturday afternoon at North Carolina, a place the Tigers have never won.

"If we don't get a win tonight, we're sagging a little bit more going up to North Carolina," Purnell said. "No matter who we played, we needed a game like this to give us a little bit of momentum."

Georgia (7-15) - Gaines 4-14 0-2 11, McAuley 2-6 0-0 6, Brophy 2-5 0-0 5, Newman 1-6 0-2 2, Bliss 2-5 5-5 9, Gibbs 2-4 3-5 7, Idrissi 1-4 0-0 2, Womack 0-0 0-0 0, Wainscott 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-45 8-14 42.

Clemson (12-12) - Ford 7-20 2-4 16, Hammonds 4-9 0-0 11, Hamilton 0-1 0-0 0, Moore 4-7 0-0 12, Robinson 2-7 2-2 7, Akingbala 1-1 0-0 2, Babalola 2-2 0-1 4, Mays 2-2 0-0 4, Perry 1-2 1-2 3, Allen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 5-9 59.

3-Point Goals — Georgia 6-17 (Gaines 3-4, McAuley 2-6, Brophy 1-4, Newman 0-3), Clemson 8-20 (Moore 4-7, Hammonds 3-7, Robinson 1-5, Ford 0-1). Rebounds — Georgia 29 (Newman 7), Clemson 33 (Ford 8). Assists — Georgia 11 (McAuley 5), Clemson 20 (Robinson 5).

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