Tigers Hold On Against Pesky Tide

CLEMSON - With seven minutes remaining in Clemson's seven-point win over Alabama Tuesday night, six of the 10 players on the floor could be seen hunched over trying to catch their breath.

It was the kind of game that felt more like an ACC home opener instead of the last out-of-conference affair of the regular season.

In fact, as the game came to a close, the student section in Littlejohn Coliseum could be heard yelling, "ACC! ACC! ACC!"

By the time it was all said and done, the 11th-ranked Tigers (15-0) scratched and clawed their way to a 66-59 victory over pesky Alabama (10-4) in a game that was much different the matchup of the same two teams the year before.

"This was a good win for us," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said afterwards. "There were a number of things we didn't do well. But it was a win against a good team with good guards and good athletes.

"We didn't shoot the ball well. We didn't shoot free throws well. K.C. Rivers shot just 1-of-8 in the first half yet we still won the game."

12 months before in Tuscaloosa, Clemson pounded Alabama by 28 for the Crimson Tide's worst home loss to an out of conference opponent in 28 years.

History wasn't going to repeat itself on this night.

Alabama jumped out an early 12-7 lead behind eight quick points from Ronald Steele and held the advantage most of the first half until Trevor Booker converted a three-point play with 8:16 remaining to put Clemson up 23-22.

Booker led the way for the Tigers with 14-first half points.

The Tigers would hold on for a 33-29 halftime lead before Alabama scored the first five points in the second half to go back on top 34-33.

Junior forward Trevor Booker led the Tigers with 19 points, including 14 scored in the first half.
Clemson wouldn't respond until the 14:12 mark, when a 14-0 run erased a 1-point Crimson Tide lead for good.

An Andre Young three-pointer sandwiched between two K.C. Rivers' lay-ups got things going before Terrence Oglesby drilled another three-pointer with 7:38 left to give the Tigers their first double digit lead of the game.

Alabama would go over eight minutes without a basket during that stretch and Purnell credited most of the run to his team's defense and ability to get back on the offensive glass.

"It is a cumulative effect," he said. "When you get to the glass like we did finally in the second half you can have stretches like what we saw."

In addition, the Tigers kept one of Alabama's top scorers, Ronald Steele, scoreless in the second half after he scored eight points in the first four minutes of the game.

It's a formula that seems to be working nicely for Clemson in its four toughest games of the season. In victories over Illinois, Miami, South Carolina and Alabama, the Tigers have fallen behind early only to eventually wear down the opposition with fierce pressure and timely shooting late.

"Coach just told us we were wearing them down in the second half," K.C. Rivers said. "We just kept going and going and it worked for us. Our pressure started to take its toll and we started hitting the boards and it worked for us."

Still, the Crimson Tide would not go away quietly.

Alabama pulled within five points with 9.7 seconds left aided by a series of missed free throws by Rivers, Demontez Stitt and Booker before Booker converted on Clemson's last two free throws of the game to provide the final margin of victory.

The Tigers finished the night just 13-of-22 from the free throw line. Alabama was 9-of-12.

Crimson Tide head coach Mark Gottfried said he's seen all he needs to see of Clemson basketball to realize the potential of this year's squad.

"They are legit," he said. "Very legit. Clemson is much better offensively this year with Oglesby and with Rivers and Booker getting better. They are very worthy of being ranked in the top 10."

Purnell added his team's 15-0 start should be noted as the Tigers enter conference play Saturday against N.C. State.

"It's a major accomplishment to go through non-conference schedule play undefeated," he said. "I congratulated our guys. At the same time, we've got to realize there's still work to do and some of those things showed up tonight."

With the win, the Tigers are one of just three unbeaten Division I teams left in college basketball along with No. 1 Pittsburgh (14-0) and No. 4 Wake Forest (13-0).

The Tigers return to the hardwood Saturday afternoon against the Wolfpack for their ACC home opener. Tip-off is set for 12:00 PM.

QUICK NOTES: With 14:17 left in the first half the game was stopped when David Potter banged his head on the floor trying to get a rebound. He never returned after his injury was classified as a minor concussion. ... Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney was in attendance along with Woody McCorvey and new Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. ... 11 NBA scouts were on hand to watch the game. ... Trevor Booker made two three-pointers in the first half, including one he banked in off the backboard.

CUTigers.com Top Stories