Clemson Improves To 14-0 After Caging Panthers


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - Non-conference? No sweat. ACC? We soon find out.

Clemson wrapped up an undefeated non-conference schedule Sunday afternoon with a 67-57 victory over visiting Georgia State. The game was played before an announced crowd of 5,861 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The No. 25 Tigers now head into Atlantic Coast Conference play with a record of 14-0. It is the program's best start since opening the 1986-87 season 17-0.

"I'm very pleased to get out of here with a win," Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell said. "...Obviously it's very hard to be 14-0 in out of conference games. Now we go to ACC play. We've played some ACC caliber teams, but now we do it every night."

After struggling to get the offense flowing for much of the afternoon, Clemson - leading just 31-29 with 16:44 remaining in the game - turned in a 13-1 run launched by the only real success it had with fullcourt pressure all afternoon. The streak came with Julius Powell replacing James Mays at the top of the press, and he briefly gave the Tigers a spurt of energy they had been missing.

Powell also started the run offensively, hitting a 3-pointer from just left of the top of the key. Cliff Hammonds followed with a steal and a layup, and after Clemson got the ball back yet again it was K.C. Rivers nailing one from long distance.

A Trevor Booker follow slam dunk and another Rivers 3-pointer ended the run, and Clemson led 44-30.

The Panthers would hang around, clawing back to within 51-46 on a Lance Perique driving layup at 7:27. But that's as close as they would get, James Mays scoring five points in the final 5:16 to help keep Georgia State at bay in what Purnell admitted was something of a trap game for his team.

"The key was recognizing that and coming out with a win," he said. "We had to keep the attention of the players and keep them focused."

Early on, the Tigers looked like they had something else - perhaps a New Year's Eve party - on their minds. By the time the first 10:01 had elapsed, Clemson had a grand total of 9 points and trailed the Panthers (4-7) by three.

The Tigers hit just 34.5 percent (10-of-29) of their shots in the first half, and led 27-19 after a ragged first 20 minutes.

Fortunately, Clemson's defense limited Georgia State to an even worse first half. The Panthers shot just 30.8 percent (8-of-26) from the field before the break.

"Their defense takes whatever your strength is away," said Panthers head coach Michael Perry. "They are one of the best in the country at creating turnovers and turning them into baskets."

Booker led Clemson with 15 points, while Rivers added 13 and Hammonds 11.

Rashad Chase topped the Panthers with 16. Leonard Mendez finished with 12.

The Tigers begin conference play on Wednesday, traveling to Florida State.

"I would think vs. Florida State we'll have their attention," said Purnell. "We will continue to remind them of the success, but keep them focused on what's ahead."

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