Tigers Slam Gamecocks

CLEMSON – Oliver Purnell said he was more interested in how his Clemson basketball team reacted in certain situations rather than the statistics his team put up. Conversely, South Carolina coach Dave Odom couldn't get his mind off the final numbers.

Without knowing who played and by looking at the stats alone, it appears as though one team is Division I school, with the similar to the likes of Newberry and Presbyterian in Division II.

Simply put, it was complete domination by the Tigers in every statistical category, including the final score as Clemson got the 82-63 victory over rival South Carolina Saturday afternoon in front of 8,400 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers, who were led by James Mays' 19 points and Vernon Hamilton's 16 points, remain perfect on the season and improve to 6-0 overall, while South Carolina drops to 5-2.

"There's no question that this is the best team we've played and we did a nice job of going out and beating them in a convincing way," Purnell said. "That says we're playing pretty good."

One of the situations Purnell referred to is when South Carolina had erased a 12-point lead and managed to tie it at 47-47 with 16:58 left to play. From that point on, following a timeout by the Tigers, Clemson went on a 13-2 run over the next four-plus minutes to jump ahead 60-49.

From the point of it being tied in the second half, the Tigers outscored South Carolina 35-16 the rest of the way.

"We expected them to make a run," Hamilton said. "Then Coach said in the huddle (during the timeout), ‘Now, how are you going to react?' The way we reacted was we were able to come back out and just picking up where we left off by getting a few steals and getting a few put-backs."

During that initial run, the frustrations of the Gamecocks boiled over as Renaldo Balkman and Clemson forward Julius Powell got tangled up underneath the basket, with Balkman eventually pulling Powell to the floor.

A brief tussle between the two ensued on the ground before referee Les Jones quickly jumped in to break it up. When Powell finally stood and backed away, South Carolina's Ousmane Konate left the bench and went after the freshman. He was stopped before he could reach Powell and was subsequently ejected from the game with 10:51 left to play.

"I just think that was intensity," Purnell said. "I didn't think that was any big deal. Unfortunately (Konate) came off the bench and that's a reaction. … But I didn't think that was a big deal."

Those steals and offensive rebounds, from Odom's perspective, tell the entire story of how the game was won and lost.

It truly takes more than a quick glance to totally soak in just how dominating the Tigers actually were. Consider:

Clemson out-rebounded the Gamecocks on the offensive end 26-8. The 26 offensive rebounds equaled South Carolina's total on the defensive end. Five players for the Tigers had at least three offensive rebounds. All nine players that got playing time snared an offensive rebound.

"I don't know that I've ever been in a basketball game where the team that I was playing got as many offensive rebounds as we got defensive," Odom said. "That's nothing short of unacceptable by anybody's standards. They were all over the glass.

"It shows they had no respect for our ability to rebound the ball and our ability to fast break. And they were right. There's no question about it. …

"Our players have nothing to say except they were whipped."

The Tigers also forced South Carolina into 20 turnovers, while committing just 11 of their own. Combine that with the offensive rebounds and Clemson took an incredible 22 more shots than the Gamecocks.

"We pressed and got something out of it," Purnell said. "We just didn't pay. We did have to pay some, but we got something out of it as well and maybe we got more out of it than we had to pay."

Right from Clemson's first possession of the game, it was evident it was going to be an uphill battle for the Gamecocks.

With South Carolina holding its only lead of the game at 2-0, Hamilton had the ball with the shot clock running down. He drove and forced a shot that was blocked and corralled by Hamilton, who threw up a prayer from some 25 feet from the hoop and watched hit bank off the backboard and straight through the goal.

Clemson never again trailed.

"I knew then that it was our night," Hamilton said. "If you can get a shot like that to fall, then you pretty much feel like you're going to get rolling for the rest of the game."

Up next for the Tigers are home games Tuesday and Friday against Wofford and East Tennessee State, respectively.

If Clemson plays the same way it did Saturday, these upcoming games will be nothing more than a formality.

"Our goal coming into the year was to get back to the level of play we were playing at the end of last year," Purnell said. "I think we're there. … They fear no one and they believe they're going to win. That's an important way to think."

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