Buckeyes Falter Down Stretch, Lose At Clemson

Tony Stockman scored 22 points in his return to Clemson, but it was not enough as the Buckeyes could not maintain a second-half advantage and fell 80-73 in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game.

On Wednesday night, Ohio State discovered that life on the road can be pretty tough in college basketball.

The Buckeyes watched Clemson rally late for an 80-73 win in an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game at raucous Littlejohn Coliseum.

OSU (5-2) had leads of 10 points in the first half and a six-point bulge with just over eight minutes left. But Clemson (3-1) outscored Ohio State 23-10 over the last seven-plus minutes to win the game going away.

"I have never seen on the tapes I saw, Clemson play the way they played tonight," said OSU coach Thad Matta, who dropped his road debut with the Buckeyes. "You have to give them credit. They played a whale of a basketball game. At times, we were a very good basketball team.

"But this team is not ready … We have such a long way to go before we're able to hang on and win a basketball game like this."

Sharrod Ford led Clemson with 20 points. Olu Babalola, playing his first game after a team suspension, chipped in 17 points. Shawan Robinson and Cliff Hammonds each had 14 points for the Tigers.

"We played a lot of young guys, but we were led by our seniors," said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, a former Matta nemesis at Dayton. "We had the enthusiasm of the young guys and the experience of the older guys. This was an important win for our program."

Many wondered how OSU guard Tony Stockman would handle his return to Clemson, where he played his first two years of college ball. But Stockman came out firing. He hit his first six shots from the floor on his way to a team-high 22 points. Ivan Harris continued his torrid pace, hitting 5 of 9 three-point shots to finish with 15 points.

Brandon Fuss-Cheatham made a pair of late treys to finish with 14. Terence Dials added 11 points.

Only three other OSU players scored. J.J. Sullinger added four points. The Buckeyes got just seven points off their bench as Je'Kel Foster had four points and Jamar Butler scored three.

After hitting a school-record 17 three-pointers in Saturday's win over Chattanooga, OSU was 15 of 27 (55.6 percent) from behind the arc. But the Buckeyes committed 21 fouls to Clemson's 10 and also had 17 turnovers in the loss.

The foul disparity allowed Clemson to shoot 26 free throws, making 19, to OSU's 4-of-6 showing at the line.

"We go on the road and shoot six and they shoot 26," Matta told WBNS-AM. "We have got to get to the free throw line and stop fouling at the other end. With our turnovers, we had some times when we just weren't sure with the ball."

This was truly a game of runs. After the teams opened with a 16-16 tie, OSU went on a 9-0 run, keyed by five points from Stockman, to go up 25-16 with 7:14 left in the first half. OSU twice led by 10 points, the last time after a Dials free throw made it 36-26 with 2:33 left in the half.

But Dials then picked up his second foul and had to go to the bench. That opened the door for Clemson to close the half with nine unanswered points. The Tigers got a big three from Cheyenne Moore and four free throws from Ford as they closed the gap to 36-35 at halftime.

"At the end of the first half, we're up 10," Matta said. "We give up a rebound and they hit a three and they go on a 9-0 run. We need to be tougher mentally and physically and be able to withstand that, especially on the road."

That 9-0 Clemson run to end the half was actually part of a larger 19-2 Tigers spurt that included the last 2-1/2 minutes of the first half and first 2-1/2 minutes of the second. Hammonds had five points during Clemson's 10-2 run to open the second half as the Tigers moved up 45-38 with 17:30 left.

But OSU battled back with a 9-2 run as Fuss-Cheatham and Harris each hit three-pointers and the Buckeyes tied the game at 47-47.

Foster and Harris hit back to back threes as OSU jumped ahead 63-57 with 8:11 left.

But this is when Clemson went to work. Perhaps the key stretch of the game came when Clemson trailed 65-62. Babalola nailed a three-pointer to tie the game. Then, seconds later after an OSU turnover against the fullcourt press, Robinson buried another trey to give the Tigers a sudden 68-65 advantage with 3:54 left.

OSU never regained the lead. Ford delivered a key dagger with 1:56 left when he missed a long range jumper but went around several OSU defenders, got the rebound and scored inside for a 72-67 lead.

"When the guy who shoots it gets the rebound and it happens twice, we can't allow that," Matta said.

Fuss-Cheatham hit a three-pointer with 31 seconds left to cut the lead to 74-70. Foster then had a steal on Clemson's inbounds play. But he missed a shot and Stockman missed a point-blank layup. Babalola got the rebound and was fouled. His two free throws put Clemson up 76-70 with 22 seconds left.

"That last play, we had a chance to cut it to two but couldn't get it done," Matta said. "That kind of typified our night. We had some great opportunities, but could not capitalize on it."

Fuss-Cheatham then made another trey to cut it to 76-73. But Robinson answered with a pair of free throws to push it back out to a five-point game and Clemson rode it out.

"That was a great comeback," Matta said. "In the game of basketball when you're playing at the highest level, you have got to make plays. You have got to get some stops. If a guy knocks down a three, we're like, `How did he do that?' We've got to play the game. We didn't have that tonight."

The Buckeyes are now 1-3 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Clemson win gave the ACC a 5-2 lead in this year's Challenge, clinching the Commissioners' Cup for the sixth straight year of the event.

OSU has now played seven games of its 30-game regular season schedule. But OSU will have 10 days off as it attends to autumn quarter exams next week. The Buckeyes return to action Sat., Dec. 11, by hosting Portland State at Value City Arena. OSU will then travel to Dallas to face Texas Tech on Dec. 16.

Click the link below for a photo essay from Wednesday's game from Clemson.Scout.com.

OSU-Clemson Photo Essay

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