Tigers Outlast ODU

CLEMSON – In three games this season, the Clemson basketball team has played two teams that will likely be playing in a postseason tournament in March. And to their credit, the Tigers have won both.

The latest came in a 66-53 victory over a very solid and pesky Old Dominion team Sunday afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum. It was a win Clemson (3-0) had to earn, which is what head coach Oliver Purnell likes the most.

"They gave us a whale of a ballgame this year and they gave us a whale of a ballgame last year," he said. "They were in the NCAA Tournament last year and in the NIT (semifinals) the year before that. It's a big win for us."

The game played perfectly into the style play Clemson loves to employ. The Monarchs (2-1) committed 23 turnovers, which turned into 29 points for the Tigers.

"Defense is what won it for us," Purnell said.

It was the defense and a 24-4 run that started midway through the second half that led Clemson to the victory.

The Tigers trailed 40-36 with 14:10 to play. Ten minutes later, Clemson led 60-44.

The Tigers used three-point shooting and the inside play of big men James Mays and Trevor Booker to wear down Old Dominion and break the game wide open.

"We kind of came out a little lackadaisical," said Rivers, who scored 16 points. "We kind of turned the heat up and put them away."

Purnell said the run was a good thing to see and that he'd been waiting for something like that to happen. He also said the reason it took a while to get accomplished is because he felt his team was a little tired for having played three games in six days.

"You hope (a run) happens, that's for sure," he said. "We finally found some of the explosiveness that we'd been missing in the first half."

He also added that Mays, who scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Booker, who added 11 points and 12 rebounds, were able to get the post players for the Monarchs tired.

Causing havoc for Old Dominion was 7-foot-3 center Sam Harris, who altered all kinds of shots and blocked seven. It was an adjustment for Mays and Booker to be faced against such an imposing foe.

"We had to chance up our game plan and use our quickness instead of just banging bodies," Mays said. "It's not like we see somebody like that everyday."

With two solids wins in their last two games, the Tigers, who sat in the "others receiving votes" area and No. 27 overall in last week's Associated Press Top 25 Poll, are likely to crack the top 25 when the new poll comes out Monday.

"It's always nice to be there," Purnell said. "With our program, that's where we think we belong."

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