"The guys have a little different look right now than then did a month ago," Purnell said. "They believe in themselves."
That poise and self-assurance came to the forefront over the final five minutes of the game as the Tigers scored on 15 of their last 18 possessions and knocked down 19 of their last 24 free throws to pull away and get the 83-74 victory over Florida State Sunday at a half filled Littlejohn Coliseum.
Thanks to senior forward Sharrod Ford's 21 points and 14 rebounds, Clemson, which improves to 14-13 overall and 4-10 in the ACC, now needs just one more win to become eligible for the NIT.
"We're being consistent right now," Ford said. "Our goal is to make the postseason. … We have faith and as long as we have faith, nothing else matters."
While it was Ford that provided the steady play in the second half, it was freshman forward Sam Perry that provided the spark that got the crowd and his teammates emotionally into the game.
Perry had back-to-back dunks in the second half that helped surge the Tigers to a 12-point lead at 48-36 with 11:14 to play. He also grabbed six rebounds, five of which came on offense, including two off of missed free throws. He finished with seven points, four assists and two blocks.
"It's been the same formula all year," Perry said. "I think I provide a lot of energy and the team just feeds off it."
There was a little bit of controversy, however.
With the Seminoles (11-17, 3-11) leading 29-27 with 18:43 left in the game, Ford had the ball on the low block on the left side of the lane. As he went to make his move to his left and toward the center of the lane, Ford stuck his left arm around the defender to gain some separation.
The referee standing closest to the play immediately blew the whistle and called hooking and it looked as though Ford had picked up his third foul of the game. The controversial part is that the foul was given to Clemson forward Olu Babalola, who was standing on the opposite side of the court and away from the play.
It appears that the referee provided the official scorer with the wrong number.
"I did think the foul was on me," Ford said. "But they gave it to Olu. I have no idea what happened."
Purnell was so sure that the foul was on Ford that he summoned reserve center Akin Akingbala to get in the game. But when Purnell discovered that it wasn't on Ford, he ordered Akingbala back to the bench.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said there was no use in trying to have the call corrected.
"I've learned one thing and that's not to pay attention with what goes on with officiating. I just take the calls and go to the house. I'm immune to it. I try not to even discuss it."
As a result of not having to sit with his third foul, Ford went on to score 17 points and snag nine rebounds in the second half.
"He's what college basketball is all about," Hamilton said of Ford. "He's just got better each year. He's doing all the little things. I'm really a Sharrod Ford fan. He'll be playing basketball for a long time. He was the factor there in the second half. Every coach woule love to have him a player like that."
The Tigers get a chance to qualify for the NIT Tuesday night against Virginia Tech in their last home game. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
And the Clemson players feel as though they are well on their way to attaining their postseason goal.
"All year we've been coming up short," Perry said. "But now, the ball is in our corner. We're getting all the loose balls now. Things are going our way."
|Officials:||Bryan Kersey, Leslie Jones, Robert Donato|