Hammonds Leads Tigers

CLEMSON – Cliff Hammonds is a very quiet and unassuming guy. His demeanor is such that he doesn't let things gnaw at him form the inside or get too stressed.

So when the Clemson guard started the season is a massive shooting slump, hitting just 31.8 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three-point range, he didn't fret.

So when scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half to lead Clemson to the 80-72 victory over East Tennessee State Saturday night, he wasn't the least bit surprised.

"I never think that I'm not a shooter," said Hammonds, who hit 8-of-14 shots from the field and 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. "I think that every shot I put up is going in. … I'm a real patient person."

At one point, Hammonds scored 10 straight points in the second half to push the Tigers (8-0) to a 17-point lead with 8:06 left to play.

But Clemson's sloppy play late, which included turnovers on seven straight possessions and nine out of 11, enabled the Buccaneers (1-5) to hang within single digits down the stretch.

"That's concerning because that's a game where you take care of the ball you've got a chance for a 20 or 25-point game," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "That's a great teaching tape to watch the last six minutes of the game."

That final run by ETSU marked the third and last time it cut a big Clemson lead to within a few points. The first two runs were courtesy of guard Tim Smith, who had season-highs with 33 points, eight rebounds and six steals.

The Tigers led by 15 early in the second half, but ETSU battled back behind the production of Smith, who scored 10 straight points for the Buccaneers to whittle the lead down to six at 54-48 with 11:21 left to play.

Smith also had a stretch of scoring 10 straight points in the first half.

"We just couldn't get over the hump," ETSU coach Murry Bartow said. "I thought we fought hard, we just couldn't get over the hump."

Clemson led 36-28 at halftime lead. It might have been higher except for its poor outside shooting. Twenty of the Tigers' 35 field goal attempts were three-pointers, of which they made only four. For the game, the Tigers were 10-of-31 from three-point range.

This marks just the 11th time in school history that the Tigers have won their first eight to start the season.

Also leading the Clemson was Akin Akingbala with 13 points and nine rebounds, as well as Vernon Hamilton, who had 15 points, eight assists and three steals. Courtney Pigram added 18 points for ETSU.

"I told the players after the game that where I come from, people get pretty excited about being 8-0," Purnell said. "I can't think of a better way to be. The team has done all it could do to this point. But I think we can play better and that excites me."

The Tigers have the next 10 days off before suiting up again in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico on Dec. 19.

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