COLUMBIA - The Clemson Tiger basketball squad acted like true student-athletes on Tuesday night, answering everything the South Carolina Gamecocks could throw at them. And more.
The 16th-ranked Tigers got a career-high 25 points from guard Terrence Oglesby and 20 points from senior forward K.C. Rivers as Clemson improved to 13-0 as they defeated the arch rival Gamecocks 98-87 at the Colonial Life Arena in the last game of the calendar year.
The Gamecocks opened up leads of 8-0 and 14-3 on the Tigers in the early going, but Clemson, which has had several early-season opportunities to fold in the early part of the season, responded in typical fashion.
Clemson took its first lead at 17-15, with freshman point guard Andre Young forced into playing time with starter Demontez Stitt on the bench with two early fouls. Young sparked the Clemson pressure, picking up two consecutive steals from Devan Downey and turning them into points, one on a feed to Trevor Booker, and once keeping it for himself, propelling the Tigers went on a 12-3 run of their own to cut the lead to 17-15 with 11:58 remaining in the half.
USC then went up 21-15, but Rivers had a basket to make it 21-17, then Oglesby hit a 3-pointer and a reverse to give the Tigers a 22-21 lead, their first of the night. The Gamecocks responded with a small run, but Oglesby hit his third trey of the night a little later to put Clemson up 37-32.
Clemson led 56-44 at the half, and the Tigers expanded the lead to 18 at 66-48 on a floater by Young to seemingly put the Gamecocks away.
Carolina responded with a run of their own, closing the gap to eight on a three by Zam Fredrick with 11:48 remaining. Once again, however, Oglesby had an answer, hitting a three of his own. Minutes later, Fredrick added a three in transition to cut the deficit to six, but Oglesby again responded with a three and then stole the inbounds pass to put the lead back to 11 with 9:37 remaining.
Downey had a steal off of Stitt and scored to cut into the lead further at 89-82 with 1:35 left,, but the Tigers proved to have all the right answers on this night when Rivers hit a layup on a nice feed from David Potter.
Potter appeared to be fouled before he made the pass, and Carolina coach Darrin Horn was assessed a technical for arguing to the no-call, the first technical of his Carolina career. The Tigers then hit 7-for-7 from the free throw line in the final 52 seconds to close out their fifth consecutive win over their in-state rival.
"We obviously knew coming into this game that Clemson was a good basketball team," Horn said. "After playing them, I think they are worthy of their ranking. I am really impressed with their basketball team as a whole. Our guys fought, but that's not good enough. We're here to win. We're not happy with how we performed. But I think we can take from this game that there are some positive things coming from our team. The start of the game was terrific."
Booker had 18 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season for the Tigers, and said the key for Clemson was their poise, saying "We just kept our poise. This is a smart team. Composure is big on this team."
Fredrick scored 19 points for South Carolina, while Mike Holmes had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Downey, however, was the star for South Carolina, who scored a career-high 37 points and added five steals. He previous career high was 30 against Penn State in November 2007.
The Tigers will bring in the new year with a home game against East Carolina on Saturday, January 3, slated to tip off at 4:00 pm in Littlejohn Coliseum.