Tigers expect more

KANSAS CITY - Trevor Booker did his best following another first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament to stay positive after the Clemson Tigers ended their season with five losses in their final five games, including Thursday's 62-59 loss to Michigan at The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo

The junior, who said he will make his decision to comeback to school for his senior year or test the murky waters of the NBA Draft in the next few weeks, did his best to put a positive spin on a season that went from being a dream of a year after a 16-0 start, to one that ended so disappointing.

But when he tried to find the right words, he could not.

"We still accomplished a lot, but it ended in tragedy," the Clemson forward said.

But Booker was right, the Tigers, which finished the 2008-'09 season with a 23-9 record, did accomplish a lot. Clemson's 23 wins marked the third straight year the program won at least 20 games – a first. The Tigers 9-7 record in the ACC, combined with a 10-6 conference mark the year before marked the first time since 1966 the program had completed back-to-back winning records in the ACC.

"Everyone is going to say this was a good year," guard Demontez Stitt said. "This was one of the best seasons in Clemson history. Everyone will talk about that, but at the same time, it is not what we wanted. We wanted more. We wanted to accomplish more."

Clemson did accomplish more. Its No. 24 final ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 marked the second straight year the Tigers finished the year ranked – also a first for the program. They beat eight different ACC teams including seven by double digit margins, including a 74-47 win over then No. 3 Duke.

That was the Blue Devils worse loss in any game since the 1990 National Championship game.

"People doubted we would get this far," said senior K.C. Rivers, who closed his career with 13 points and 9 rebounds in the loss to Michigan. "That's all I have to say. No one thought we could win this many games, but we did.

"It is just now getting to the point that we have to get over the hump."

And that hump now is advancing in the NCAA Tournament, something the Tigers have not done since 1997 when they went to the Sweet 16.

"We've accomplished a lot of things this year and I told the guys, you've had a solid year, but it's not good enough for me," said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, who is now 0-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament as a head coach. "I don't think that is good enough for the program. I don't think that is good enough for you.

"I told the seniors, I hope they learned a lot in terms of team and consistency and those kinds of things as they go off to play for somebody else or they go off into business. But from a program standpoint, we can't be satisfied. We got a lot of guys coming back, got some guys coming in and we're not satisfied with having a solid year. We want to have a great year."


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