Oliver Purnell Interview from Thursday's Cruise Control with Dan Scott

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Clemson head basketball coach Oliver Purnell was a guest on "Cruise Control with Dan Scott" Thursday morning on 104.9 FM, The Drive in Clemson.

Listen to the full interview here: Windows Media

Following is a partial transcript of the interview:

DS: First of all, congratulations on going into a place (Tallahassee) that historically has been a difficult venue to win in for Clemson and coming away with a 68-66 victory.

OP: It is a very good win for us, and anytime you win on the road in the ACC it's tough. We've been able to go down there and win in two of the last four years, and we're proud of that. Florida State's talent as a program at this point is outstanding. They were on an eight-game winning streak, and went 15-2 over their last (17) home games. It all adds up to being a difficult place to get a win and, you know, it was a tough win. We had to hit a shot with two seconds left to win it. Both teams really got after each other, giving it their all. Both teams were exhausted by the end, as evidenced by Cliff Hammonds having to get three or four bags of IV to fight off dehydration and cramping. That's the kind of night it was.

DS: And for you, for once you have a close game at the end where you don't have to answer questions about whether to foul or not. No question you're not fouling in that situation, right?

OP: (laughs) No, no no. We're not going to foul up 2 and they have to go the length of the court. We're not going to do that.

DS: Let's talk a little about Cliff Hammonds. This is a kid playing in front of a bunch of friends and family. Did not have a great night shooting the ball, but hit maybe the two biggest shots of the game - the 3-pointer that gave you the lead back, 64-62, and then that layup in traffic that ultimately proved to be the game-winner. This is a tough, hard-nosed kid who I know likes the ball in those situations.

OP: There's no question that Cliff came up big for us. And you're right, he hadn't shot the ball well. But Cliff does so many other things out on the floor for us. He's a tremendous defender, he's going to rebound the ball. If you look at his stat line beyond his shooting, he had three assists and no turnovers. So he's doing some other things out there, and then he stepped up big when we needed him to. They're making a run at us, and I think they had taken the lead finally; their first lead of the half and first lead since maybe the first four minutes of the game. The took a lead with a couple of minutes to play, then Cliff stepped up with a big-time three to give us the lead back. That let them know that, hey, we're here to play. We're here to win. Then obviously, with the score tied to shoot the layup. And it wasn't an easy layup. They had Al Thornton and another fine athlete going for the block, so he had to lay it up high off the glass and knock it in.

DS: It seems like just yesterday that Hammonds and Mays and Perry, that class, were just coming onto campus here. They were freshmen and the first real building blocks of your rebuilding process. Now here we are, they're juniors, and those are guys you're expecting to perform like veteran leaders coming down the stretch. (Wednesday) night on the road in the ACC, you had to have those guys - along with a Vernon Hamilton, who had 19 points - the guys you expected to perform for you because of their experience are the guys stepping up now and making the plays.

OP: I think that's one of the huge attributes of this team. Even though we still only have one senior, we've got experienced guys now. You and I have talked many times. Winning in the ACC is easy to talk about, but it's hard to do. You get a couple or three recruiting classes and you grow them up with positive experiences. (Wednesday) night was that kind of positive experience. These guys have won games like that for the two or three years they've been here. Obviously we want to win more of them. Winning seven ACC games last year, five the year before, that doesn't seem like an awful lot. But you know every one of those is tough. And if you can learn something from those wins, as well as when you lose a tough one, you start to grow up with positive experiences. That's what this group has done, and I think we'll be a tough out.

DS: You're able to build a lead and win that game despite not shooting well from the perimeter, I believe it was 6-of-23 from the 3-point line if I remember correctly, and only getting to the free throw line five times - making two - compared to them shooting 16-out-of-20. That's a heck of a discrepancy.

OP: Well it is. It's pretty amazing when we're in a zone and they're in a fullcourt, man-to-man defense that we don't get to the bonus in the second half. In fact, the only reason we got to the bonus is because (at the end) they were fouling intentionally. That's part of being on the road sometimes. You can look at those things after a loss and complain about them and so on and so forth, but that's just the adversity of being on the road in many cases. Our guys didn't pay attention to any of that. They had a single-mindedness of purpose and let's try to get a win in any form or fashion.

DS: Very politically correctly stated, by the way (both laugh)...You know, because you've been through it before, that when your team is ranked - and you're 23rd in one poll, 18th in the other - that automatically puts a bullseye on your chest. When you go into somebody else's house, or they come into Littlejohn Coliseum, it gives them just that much more incentive to play just that much harder against you. It makes you the hunted rather than the hunter. How are the kids dealing with that aspect of where you've been, and where you are right now.

OP: I think very well. I think as you read the comments of the Florida State players before our game, you're exactly right. Those are the things they were talking about - our ranking and what a challenge it was, what an opportunity it was for them to play against a ranked opponent. I think you will see Georgia Tech's players saying the same things. It is a byproduct of being ranked. The bullseye is bigger and it serves as motivational fodder for the opposing coaches and teams. That's part of it. So it's important for you to understand that you better be ready to take those blows and match that energy and intensity because it's surely coming. And I thought our guys did a great job of matching Florida State...

NOTE - Clemson entertains Georgia Tech at 4 p.m. Saturday at Littlejohn Coliseum.

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