Tigers Stomp N.C. State

CLEMSON – Oliver Purnell spoke Monday afternoon of needing to build some momentum leading into this weekend's game at Duke. After putting together it's most dominant ACC game of the early season, his Clemson basketball team firmly accomplished its mission.

No. 24 Clemson used a smothering defense on the perimeter and in post, while at the same time getting a balanced offense from the outside and inside to cruise to the 70-54 victory in front of a smallish crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum Tuesday night.

And as the cliché goes, the game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. The Tigers (14-3, 2-1 ACC) led by as many as 23 late in the second half.

The game was exactly what Purnell had wanted. It wasn't one that was decided in the final minutes or seconds.

"I think it's important to do (win big) every once in a while," the coach said. "It can be tiring mentally to have a lot of games come down to the end."

N.C. State (11-5, 0-2 ACC) looked exactly like the team that went 6-10 in the league last season. The Wolfpack have no point guard due to injury and had to throw in players that normally wouldn't see the light of day on the court.

It led to all those turnovers as Clemson pressed and forced the forwards to handle the ball, whereas a good and experienced point guard would have been able to break the press on his own.

Conversely, the Tigers only had 10 turnovers, which gave them a 29-3 advantage on points off turnovers.

"That's obviously an area that they're struggling," Purnell said. "Losing a player to a season-ending injury is never easy. Not many teams can lose a point guard. That's something they're going to have to solve in order to get this going."

When the Wolfpack didn't turn it over, they still weren't able to get it to their scorers, particularly post players Brandon Costner, J.J. Hickson and Ben McCauley. Those three are what makes N.C. State go and all three were irrelevant.

For the first time since his true freshman season, which he was later granted a medical redshirt, Costner was held scoreless. He took six shots and missed all of them.

Hickson, the star freshman, managed just four shots and had only four points. McCauley took seven shots and had only six points.

That's a total of 10 points from players that came into the night averaging a combined 33 points per game.

"We did a great job defending in the interior with our post players," Purnell said. "I thought our guys gave them nothing easy inside."

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said the Tigers worked their defense to perfection and that his team wilted mentally under the pressure.

"They were more physical in the post," he said. "They did what they were supposed to do. What we did was we weren't patient and kept trying to force it in there."

On the opposite end of the court, Clemson nailed 10-of-25 3-pointers, four of which came from Terrence Oglesby. K.C. Rivers added three, Cliff Hammonds two and Booker had the last one.

The last six made baskets of the first half for the Tigers came from behind the arc.

Also, it's the third straight game Booker has made a 3-pointer. He is now 5-of-10 on the year. Conversely, point guard Demontez Stitt is 5-of-29 from the same distance.

Hammonds led the way for the Tigers with 14 points, five assists and five rebounds. Booker added 13 points, while Oglesby had 12 and Rivers 11.

But there was way more to the offense than just the long shot. Clemson used fast breaks, post moves and penetration to break down the Wolfpack defense.

All this leads to the big road test Saturday night as the Tigers travel to Duke. It will be a rested Clemson team and a very confident team heading into Durham.

"I think guys are definitely buying into the winning," Rivers said. "This is definitely the most confident team I've been on."

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