Gamecocks Fall To Tigers On Hardwood
Neither team began the game sharp. Clemson drew first blood when they pulled in a pair of offensive rebounds and drew a foul on the putback. James Mays went to the line and, facing chants of "Wide left," hit one of two free throws. That possession was a sign of things to come, as Clemson completely dominated the Gamecocks on the offensive glass. Vernon Hamilton added a bank shot to give Clemson the quick lead 3-0. Several players struggled with their footing on the new court at the Colonial Center, but Brandon Wallace was able to find his way to the rim for a pair of dunks that gave Carolina a 4-3 lead when the teams huddled up for the under 16 minute time out.
Out of the timeout, senior Tre Kelley tried to start a run. He attacked the basket, first hitting a running fade, then drawing the defense and finding Wallace for a dunk. The aggressive play was contagious, and Wallace added a dunk on a follow of a Dominique Archie drive. Meanwhile, Clemson forgot to dribble, and was called for traveling twice and turned the ball over on 3 of 4 possessions. When the teams broke for the under 12 minute timeout, the Gamecocks led only 10-8, but the game was being played at Carolina's pace.
Clemson tried to get the Gamecocks into a more up tempo game by playing a full court press. Carolina had problems with the press early, when Clemson was able to keep the ball out of Kelley's hands. Bryce Sheldon managed to take advantage of the trapping defense when he fired a long outlet pass to Kelley, who turned it into an alley-oop dunk for Archie. Kelley added a block and rebound on Clemson's next possession, giving him what would have been an impressive early stat line, had the scoreboard been working. After four minutes of playing a full court defense, Clemson had succeeded in changing the tempo of the game, though Carolina still led 13-12 following the under 8 timeout.
When play resumed, the defensive struggle suddenly turned offensive. Clemson started a quick 11-5 run over the next four minutes. The only field goals for the Gamecocks during the run were a pair of Tre Kelley layups. Clemson led 23-18 at the under four minute timeout. K.C. Rivers, Clemson's sparkplug off the bench, came in and hit two threes to stretch the lead to 31-22 lead at halftime. Odom felt that those shots were the difference in the game. "[Those baskets] took the lead from 3 to 9, and it really discouraged our kids. I think when I look at the tape, I am going to see the game was a game of missed or lost opportunities in the first half," he said. Odom was pleased with is team's effort in the first half even though shots weren't falling. "We got the ball where we wanted it, that's all you can do," said Odom. The Gamecocks shot 34.6% from the field in the half.
The teams matched buckets to start the second half, but following the under 16 minute timeout, Clemson made its run. Clemson was able to twice stretch the lead to ten points. First, Julius Powell drained a three from the top of the key. Then, Trevor Booker converted a dunk and one to give the Tigers an eleven point lead. The emphatic dunk seemed to spark Clemson, and the Gamecocks were unable to find an answer, trailing 45-33 at the under 12 timeout.
Carolina made one last attempt to get in the game. Bandis Raley-Ross made a layup to get the deficit into single digits, but another Powell three pointer ended the run. Cliff Hammonds stole a Wallace pass, and the rout was officially on. The frustration began to show for the Gamecocks when Kelley and Raley started yelling at each other during a dead ball. Other players intervened and the resulting confusion gave Clemson an easy layup and one. When play finally stopped, Carolina trailed 59-44, and a Tiger win was inevitable.
The only question that remained was whether Clemson would win by 20, and the Tigers succeeded in stretching the lead to 21 when the clock expired. "That's a pretty good kicking," Odom said glumly after the game. Odom was most frustrated with the way Clemson dominated the rebounding. The Tigers outrebounded Carolina 45-30, and pulled on a staggering 21 offensive boards. "We were abysmal," Odom said. "What happens is that just takes your manhood away."
"The job we've got right now is flushing this game as quickly as we can," Odom explained. "We've got to find out what we did wrong. We've got to correct it. We've got to get ourselves back in practice on Sunday afternoon and again on Monday and get ready to play a very difficult game on Tuesday night." The Gamecocks face College of Charleston at the Colonial Center on Tuesday.
During a timeout in the first half, Steve Spurrier and several members of the football team presented the Hardee's Trophy, awarded annually to the winner of the Carolina-Clemson football game, to the crowd. The fans responded with a standing ovation, one of the few things they had to cheer about on the day.
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