Tigers Fall At Texas A&M

When a team is playing against a good team in a hostile environment, it's imperative that every star player perform near their best to ensure a realistic chance to win. Unfortunately for Clemson's sake, that didn't happen. <br>

The Tigers' star senior center Sharrod Ford played just 19 minutes before fouling out with only three points and three rebounds and Texas A&M got the 82-74 victory in the first round of the NIT at Reed Arena Wednesday night.

As a result, Clemson's season comes to an end with a record of 16-16.

"I'm very proud of this group," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "It's really gratifying when you coach a team that pulls for each other. They fought tonight. They got better as the year went on and played their best basketball when it matter most."

Ford was just one of three Clemson players to foul out after only nine had fouled out in the previous 31 games.

Olu Babalola, the team's other senior, also fouled out, as did freshman Sam Perry.

That along with the Aggies' ability to make 54.5 percent of their shots also hurt Clemson. Texas A&M freshman forward Joseph Jones led the way by scoring 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and making 7-of-10 from the free throw line. He also had seven rebounds.

"We didn't play him the way we talked about with the scouting report," Purnell said. "He was either laying it up or they were calling fouls on us all night and that really hurt us."

For Clemson, it was a carbon copy of so many of its losses – high turnovers, poor starts at the beginning of both halves and poor defensive play in the final 20 minutes.

Texas A&M (20-9) started the game leading 15-5, before the Tigers clawed their way back to close within one at 17-16 with 10:45 left in the half. But that's when Ford picked up his third foul.

But to the credit of the young Tigers, they eventually grabbed the lead and actually led 42-34 at halftime, thanks mostly to freshman guard Cliff Hammonds, who scored the last nine points of the half for Clemson. He finished with 26 points.

However, the second half started the same way the first session did as the Aggies quickly even things up and then took the lead. They led the second half by five or so points the rest of the way.

Although, the Tigers did have a shot to make it a two-point game with a minute remaining, but Cheyenne Moore's 3-point attempt missed and that was pretty much the end of Clemson's chances.

"We ended up not playing at the level we've been playing," Purnell said. "You can't blame it on the officiating. It would have been nice if they would have called it a little bit looser. But they didn't and we just didn't play well. It kind of reminds me of games earlier in the year."

The loss also means the end of Clemson careers for Ford and Babalola, two guys that literally put the Tigers into postseason play with the five points in the final nine seconds against Virginia Tech in the final game of the regular season.

"For them to be a part of what I believe is a tremendous turnaround for this program, they'll always be a part of this," Purnell said.

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