Charlotte looked quicker and more athletic and hit every big shot it needed to as it took advantage of a disheartened No. 18 Clemson team to get the 82-72 upset Wednesday night.
Tigers coach Oliver Purnell had said following Sunday night's loss to No. 1 North Carolina that he was worried about this being a "trap game," one that Clemson (12-2) might overlook because of Charlotte being a lesser opponent.
Even 49ers coach Bobby Lutz was aware of the situation surrounding this game for the Tigers.
"We caught them at the right time, probably," he said. "I don't think we could have played them at a better time. But give us credit. We still had to do the work. I think we were the better team tonight."
There's very little to argue about that. Charlotte (9-5) has plenty of athleticism and showed in spades against a Clemson team that was beaten off the dribble and yielded numerous uncontested and easy shots.
"We were playing like our feet were in mud and they were quicker," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "They spread us and were more patient offensively than we were defensively."
Defense wasn't the only problem for Clemson as every starter other than sophomore forward Trevor Booker shot well below 50 percent from the field.
Booker was an absolute beast offensively and defensively and pretty much did what ever he wanted whenever he wanted. He finished with 32 points and 11 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. He also had four blocks.
Oddly enough, even though Clemson rode the broad shoulder of Booker to erase a 12-point second half deficit to tie the game with 4:23 left to play, he only took one more shot the rest of the way.
And that's part of the reason why the Tigers only scored three points the rest of the way.
"I got a little frustrated because the coaches were telling them to get the ball inside," Booker said. "We didn't play as a team. We made critical mistakes. There's really no other way to explain it."
Conversely, junior guard K.C. Rivers, a Charlotte native, was just 3-for-10 from the field and 0-5 from 3-point range. When he struggles, more often than not, so does Clemson.
Meanwhile, the backcourt combination for the Tigers of senior Cliff Hammonds and freshman Demontez Stitt, also a Charlotte native, went a combined 8-of-26 from the field and 3-of-11 from 3-point range.
Senior forward James Mays gave it all he could, but his body is still banged up and his broken left hand makes it difficult for him to be completely effective.
He finished with six points and four rebounds.
"I've been in pain the last month," he said. "I tried not to think about it. I tried as hard as I could, but I just couldn't do much. …
"I'm not the same old James. I can't do what I used to do."
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