Tigers Begin ACC Play

CLEMSON – Following the inexplicable loss to lowly Elon Friday, it seems that some much needed rejuvenation has taken place with the Clemson basketball team over the last few days.

WHAT: Florida State vs. Clemson
WHEN: 7 p.m., Wednesday (no TV)
WHERE: Littlejohn Coliseum (10,980 capacity)

"It's been very intense in practice," Tigers point guard Vernon Hamilton said. "These last four days have given us time to think about the game and how it felt to lose a basketball game. … It was definitely disappointing to lose to Elon. It wasn't a game we should have lost like that.

"The best part about it is that it's ACC time. If you can get excited about that, then how can you get excited?"

Hamilton and the rest of his Clemson teammates have a shot to redeem themselves as they play host to Florida State (9-1) Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum in the first ACC game of the season for both teams.

A win against the Seminoles would go a long way toward solving some of the questions facing this team: Can Clemson (11-2) win without 6-foot-9 power forward James Mays?

"The mental part is definitely the toughest part," Tigers head coach Oliver Purnell said. "I think mentally, you can get into a situation where guys start to press too hard. Sometimes you can try to step up too much and try to do too much."

As it stands now, Clemson is winless without the services of Mays, who averaged 9.2 points and 7.6 rebounds over the first 11 games.

But getting a win over Florida State is definitely doable. The Seminoles have struggled to consistently put together a winning team in recent years. Moreover, the Tigers are 3-1 against Florida State under Purnell.

"I think from a mental standpoint, it's an important game for a number of reasons," Purnell said. "It's just the fact that we've lost two in a row and we haven't played well in those two games, but also it's the start of the ACC season. I think that places an extra emphasis and importance on this game, because you want to get off to a good start.

"In this league, any win that you can get is good. If you can get off to a good start in this league, it's going to bode very well for you because the league will just get tougher as the year goes along. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

Getting that opening win in the ACC is something Clemson surely isn't used to. The Tigers have lost each of their last seven conference openers, all of which were against Top 25 teams.

This will be the first time the Clemson hasn't opened the ACC season against a ranked team in 15 years. The Tigers have opened the last four seasons against Duke.

Purnell and athletic director Terry Don Phillips' discussions with the league offices about the conference opener paid off.

"I didn't lobby the ACC that hard," Purnell said. "Terry Don and myself certainly brought that up on a few occasions. I wouldn't say we put together any type of lobbying effort."

With Virginia slated for Saturday and with the upper crust of the ACC not on the schedule for another week, the Tigers have a chance to start conference play 2-0. But in order to do that, they must first regroup from last week and take care of Florida State.

"I'm glad we have a game (Wednesday)," said Hamilton, who leads the team with 12.0 points per game. "I don't think we need any more time away from having a game. We're ready to get back out there and get playing. I think a good win against Florida State, we'll be right back where we left off. We're still very confident."

Florida State (9-1 overall, 0-0 ACC)
PG 4 Todd Galloway (5-11, 178) 8.4 ppg, 2.7 apg
G 3 Isaiah Swann (6-1, 197) 8.1 ppg, 2.7 apg
C 32 Alexander Johnson (6-10, 250) 10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg
G 21 Jason Rich (6-3, 185) 10.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg
F 12 Al Thornton (6-6, 195) 14.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg

Clemson (11-2 overall, 0-0 ACC)
PG 3 Vernon Hamilton (6-0, 195) 12.0 ppg, 3.6 apg
G 25 Cliff Hammonds (6-3, 197) 9.1 ppg, 3.4 apg
C 33 Akin Akingbala (6-9, 240) 10.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg
F 32 Sam Perry (6-5, 208) 8.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg
F 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, 210) 7.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg

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