Hamilton, Tigers Prepare For Demon Deacons

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON — It was just a few minutes after Clemson’s 74-73 overtime victory against Wake Forest on Jan. 11, when point guard Vernon Hamilton dug up his cell phone and started dialing.

Hamilton was calling his sister, Lauren, and he wasn’t calling her to just say hello or to check up on her. He was calling to brag. Brag about his Tigers’ victory over her Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

“She is always rooting for me, but she is also a Wake Forest alum so she is big on Wake Forest so I had to call her and put it in her face that we won and how good it felt to beat Wake Forest,” Vernon said.

See the Hamilton’s are like any sibling rivalry – if they can get the best of one another they will give it their best shot. Lauren, now in law school at the Ohio State University, always liked to bring up to her little brother that his Clemson teams could not beat her Deacons. So when Clemson finally got the better of the Deacs, Vernon wasted little time giving her a call.

“That was the first time it had been done since I had been here,” he said. “It felt good. We really came out and played hard and she got a chance to watch it.

“I just told her how much it meant to me so I wanted to tell her about it.”

Vernon knows all the bragging for now is done and all that talk after the Jan.11 meeting will mean nothing if he and the Tigers can’t back it up tonight in Winston-Salem, N.C as Clemson visits Wake Forest for a 7 p.m. tip.

“I definitely don’t want to speak too soon,” he said. “Wake Forest is a very capable basketball team.

“At times this year they have shown greatness. They’re a good team. We’re not going to take anything away from them because their record doesn’t show how good of a team they are.”

If the Tigers do find a way to win, it will mean they landed one of the more historical wins in the Oliver Purnell era. Clemson (15-10, 4-8 ACC) has not swept a Wake Forest team in a season since the 1989-90 season and has lost 14 consecutive games to the Demon Deacons at Joel Coliseum.

“There is a lot riding on this game,” Purnell said. “We have to go on the road and try to win a game we need in a place where we haven’t played too well against a team that needs this game also.”

And doing it against a Wake Forest team, which at times looks likes the ACC contender it was suppose to be, will be tough. The Deacons (13-13, 1-11) are also trying to avoid becoming the first Wake Forest team to fall below the .500 line since the 1989-90 team went 12-16.

“Wake Forest is a team that has shown improvement,” Hamilton said. “I expect them to get after us early and get (center) Eric Williams established inside and Akin (Akingbala) in foul trouble and force us to take deep shots rather than get the ball inside.”

If those things happen, Clemson could be in for a long night. Williams is averaging 16 points and 8.7 rebounds per game so the Tigers will need Akingbala to man the inside.

Over the last seven games, Akingbala has scored in double figures all seven times, including a 14-point, 13-rebound performance in a victory against Maryland on Valentine’s Day.

During the seven-game stretch, Akingbala is averaging 15.4 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.

“Akin has been a tremendous post presence for us,” Purnell said. “He can lineup against any big guy in this league.

“He has been outstanding and I hope that continues because that can be very good for us down the stretch.”

And with Hamilton listed as questionable for tonight’s game due to an elbow injury, Clemson will need all of Akingbala if he isn’t able to go.

“I can’t say I’m exactly 100 percent, but everybody on our team has injures and is having to play with pain so it is just something I’m going to have to get through,” Hamilton said. “When you have just a few games left in the regular season and you get to this stretch of the schedule, you just have to go with it.”

Hamilton said he has practiced the last couple of days and he says the only problem he is having is getting adjusted to the arm pad, which covers his left elbow.

“Coach (Purnell) is actually surprised with how well I have been able to shoot,” he said. “I feel comfortable. I feel good. I just think only time will tell when I’m at one hundred percent.”

And if that time is tonight, he might just get a second opportunity to call his sister.

“I just want to go in there and have another big game and hopefully the outcome will be the same thing – me calling her when it is over,” he said.

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