No. 3-seeded Clemson looked as intense and businesslike as it has all season as it completely dismantled No. 11 Boston College in an 82-48 victory Friday night at Bobcats Arena, which featured a larger amount of Tiger fans than normal.
It is the largest margin of victory ever for Clemson in the ACC Tournament. It is also the 10th largest margin of victory in ACC Tournament history.
"I certainly didn't expect to have that margin of victory," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "But I thought the guys really earned it with their attention to detail with our game plan."
The Tigers (23-8) will now face No. 2 Duke (27-4) in a semifinal game at 3:30, when Clemson will look to advance to the finals for the first time since 1962.
"We are looking forward to the match-up (Saturday) afternoon with Duke," Purnell said. "We have to get back and get into bed and do as much preparation as we can, because we realize we are in for a tough match-up."
After a few initial minutes of jitters, Clemson settled down and began to wipe the floor with the Eagles (14-17).
The Tigers had a real sense of purpose on their face. There were mostly scowls as they were dead set to send a message that they are truly one of the elite teams in the league.
"I thought we were in a good place (mentally) and that we had a nice edge," Purnell said of his team's state prior to the game. "It would have been very easy for them to exhale since we've already accomplished making the NCAA Tournament.
"I sensed today that we were in a good spot and I thought we came out very strong."
The whipping was so bad that the Tigers got to rest their starters for the final six minutes of the game, which is critical considering they have a quick turnaround.
After a quick 6-0 start by the Eagles, Clemson ripped off 19 straight points to grab a 19-6 lead with 13:19 left to play in the opening half. That run was fueled by five straight turnovers by Boston College, nearly all of which were the result of the Tigers playing feisty defense.
The full-court, trapping defense by Clemson gave the Eagles fits and forced them into 13 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, which led to 25 points for the Tigers.
"We really did not meet the challenge," Boston College coach Al Skinner said. "Physically we did not meet the challenge. They came after us, they challenged us, they bumped us and we didn't respond well to it.
"That led to easy opportunities for them. On every basket they scored they just continued to build confidence in what they were doing. We did not respond t it as well as we should have."
Conversely, the Clemson could do little wrong on the offensive end.
The Tigers worked their way through the Boston College defnse with ease to get dunk after spectacular dunk, or set up open 3-pointers. Eight of the 10 Clemson players that played in the opening half scored as the Tigers held a 42-25 halftime lead.
The second half was much of the same as Clemson built a lead as high as 38 and by game's end, it had forced the Eagles into 22 turnovers.
Clemson power forward James Mays was huge offensively, as was center Trevor Booker. The big men for the Eagles had no answers for the quickness of the two. Ever since Mays took off the cast on his hand, he has been a different player.
He finished with 15 points and six rebounds. He was also 5-of-6 from the free throw line. As a team, the Tigers were 10-of-14 from the free throw line. Even Raymond Sykes got into the act, scoring 12 points. It was so bad that freshman Jerai Grant had dunks on three straight possessions.
"As a player, it feels great to be able to come in and get this first win," Mays said. "This is what we've been working for all year and this is what we set our goals to. We are not going to be just satisfied with this win. We came with a goal to come out and be able to win the ACC Tournament, and this is just one step."
Clemson will need all that same type of intensity and maybe even more if it's going to beat the Blue Devils, who are ranked No. 7 in the country.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he fully expects a fired up Clemson team.
"Clemson has had one of those magical years," he said. "Oliver and his kids have done a wonderful job. If they could've won a couple more of those close games they had, they could've won this league, that's how good they've been."
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