GREENVILLE - Having lost five times inside the ACC this season after leading at the half, apparently Clemson needed not only an opponent from a different conference but a different venue, as well.
The Tigers turned in a strong defensive effort Wednesday night, holding SEC foe Georgia to just 31 percent shooting in a 59-42 win at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville before an announced crowd of 8,000. Clemson finished its non-conference schedule with a 10-3 record.
Clemson (12-12) never trailed and the game was never tied. After the Tigers bolted out to an 11-point lead in the first half the Bulldogs (7-15) never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
"I was really happy with the way our guys approached (the game)," said Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell. "We've kind of defined ourselves as guys who will stand up and fight back. We played well defensively, stayed with the plan. The offense came and went, but the defense kept us in there until we got it going."
Instead of folding down the stretch, as they had in recent outings, the Tigers took control in the game's final six minutes.
Leading 46-36, the Tigers took off on an 11-0 run over a stretch of 4:25. Senior center Sharrod Ford, who finished with a team-high 16 points, scored six points during the run. His dunk at 6:04 started the spurt, and later he added a pair of short jumpers.
Cheyenne Moore added a 3-pointer during the stretch, and Cliff Hammonds knocked down a shot from the perimeter at 2:39 to close the run.
By that time it was 57-36, and the Tigers never looked back.
"The guys came in very positive, very confident," Purnell said. "The last eight minutes of the game, where we've had some problems, there didn't seem to be any mental tightness. It was a good job in the last 7-8 minutes of the game."
The subplot Wednesday night was Clemson's defense.
The Tigers held Georgia to just 14 made field goals in 45 attempts (31 percent), including 6-of-17 from long distance (35 percent). At one point the Bulldogs went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal.
Georgia also committed 18 turnovers to Clemson's 14, and lost the rebounding battle 26-21.
"We didn't get our heads down on the defensive end of the floor," Purnell said. "It's happened to us before, where we couldn't score and it sapped our defensive energy. We did a good job of keeping their perimeter guys of getting wide open field goals."
The Tigers led 30-22 at the half behind Hammonds' nine points, all coming on 3-of-5 shooting from behind the 3-point arc.
Clemson roared out to a quick 8-0 lead, a Sam Perry steal and slam dunk highlighting the run. The Tigers' largest lead of the half was 11 points, 17-6 on a James Mays jumper at 11:13.
Georgia battled back to within five, 26-21, when Sundiata Gaines hit a 3-pointer with 5:23 left in the half.
Shawan Robinson's 3-pointer at 2:01 was the final basket of the half.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.