Tigers Win ACC Opener

CLEMSON, S.C. – After back-to-back loses following the announcement that forward James Mays was gone for the season due to academics, there were major questions as to how the Clemson basketball team was going to handle the rest of the year.

Those answers became a lot clearer following Clemson's 61-56 victory over Florida State Wednesday night in front of 4,800 fans at Littlejohn Coliseum in the ACC opener for both schools.

The Tigers are going to live-and-die by the three-pointer, while at the same time being a scrappy bunch on the defensive end. And as Clemson's defense goes, so goes its chances of winning.

"I've said from the beginning that we're a team that's going to struggle offensively and that really hasn't changed," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "Defensively, we can't afford to struggle now."

This was no means a pretty game, but that's really insignificant to Clemson.

However, to get a sense of just how bad it was, the Tigers (12-2, 1-0 ACC) shot 21.7 percent from the field and managed just five field goals in the second half, including only one over the final 13:36, and they still won by five.

"That's an amazing stat that you would shoot 21 percent in the second half and win," Purnell said. "We're capable defensively and that's where we've got to hang our hats and where we've got to eat. We're not going to be a great free throw shooting team and we're not a great field goal shooting team or a high-powered offensive team, so we've got to nail it defensively and get some wins like this."

Moreover, Clemson was just 2-of-12 from three-point range in the final 20 minutes, but the Seminoles were unable to take advantage due to their 1-of-7 shooting from the same distance.

"I didn't expect our shooting percentage to be quite that low," Tigers guard Vernon Hamilton said. "But we're back to playing defense our way. We played very physical tonight.

"When you play that physical you can somewhat intimidate a team. I feel like we jumped on them and stayed on them tonight."

One of the biggest advantages the Tigers had over Florida State (9-2, 0-1 ACC) was corralling rebounds. Clemson snared 16 offensive rebounds and 42 overall compared to the Seminoles' seven offensive boards and 28 overall.

"You don't outrebound a good Florida State team the way we did without tremendous effort," Purnell said.

After missing its first seven three-point attempts of the game, Clemson rallied to drain seven of its next 12 shots from beyond the arc, which helped the Tigers lead by as many as 11 at 33-22 with 2:19 left in the first half.

But the Seminoles scored eight straight to whittle it down to a 33-30 Tigers advantage. However, a desperation three-pointer from the right wing by reserve guard Troy Mathis at the buzzer lifted Clemson's lead to 36-30 at halftime.

Troy Mathis came off the bench to score all 10 points of his points in the first half. For the game, Shawan Robinson led the Tigers with 12 points.

Up next for the Tigers is a road game Saturday afternoon at Virginia, which is another winnable game.

"We finally have a schedule that gives us an opportunity to get off to a good start," Purnell said. "We haven't had that opportunity since I've been here. Hopefully we'll be better than we were when I first got here."

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