Purnell Ready for First Rivalry Game with USC

by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON -- Despite it being his first year as Clemson’s head basketball coach, Oliver
Purnell most definitely has an understanding of the importance of the
Clemson vs. South Carolina rivalry.

“It’s a rivalry game, anything can happen,” Purnell said. “Its going to be
an emotional game, we’ve talked long and hard about this rivalry and what it
means in this state. You’re either for South Carolina or for Clemson. I’m
glad to be a part of it.”

Coming off of a tough 76-64 loss at Purdue, the Tigers carry a 3-1 record
into the rivalry match-up, hoping to gain their first win over the Gamecocks
in four years. The Gamecocks (7-0), in Dave Odom’s third year at the helm,
are stylistically similar to the Purdue team that caused so much trouble for
the Tigers earlier this week.

“I think South Carolina is a similar team to Purdue,” Purnell said. “They
run some similar stuff. Their down-screen, cross-screen action is very, very
good. Their secondary break is good. They’re a quick, athletic team who can
get out in the lanes. So, its not like it’s a totally different style we’ve
got to prepare for.”

Purnell said he hopes that the similarities between Purdue and South
Carolina will give his squad an edge in preparation for what they’ll see on

“So hopefully coming out of the game against Purdue, watching the tape, and
seeing some of our mistakes, we’ll be able to learn and put into practice
what we learned on Saturday. We’re going to need it,” Purnell said.

Purnell made mention of Clemson’s athletic program accumulating 7-0 record
against USC in head-to-head so far.

“That’s good, and we’d like to be 8-0,” Purnell said. “But on the other side
of that coin, in basketball we haven’t won in a while versus South Carolina
so hopefully its time to change that trend.”

Purnell’s team is young and inexperienced and was obviously rattled by
Purdue’s aggressive, physical defense. He emphasized staying calm and
playing a complete game in order to succeed.

“I don’t know if panic is the right word, but certainly a feeling of
confidence that we had at the beginning of the game (against Purdue) faded
there some. We became discouraged and frustrated because of our inability to
score. But if you’re standing on the side watching, and obviously looking
back on the tape, it was obvious we weren’t in that bad of shape,” Purnell
said. “So a big point of emphasis yesterday was to get them to understand
it’s a 40 minute game.”

Regarding his team’s ability to concentrate on this Saturday's game rather
than dwell on the frustrating performance against the Boilermakers, Purnell
expressed the importance that his players would be ready to play.

“I think that is always the case in any team I’ve ever had you want to
re-focus after a loss and you’re in the position to re-focus after a loss.
The kids certainly listen more after a loss, so you want to take advantage
of them listening and being tuned in, and again, to learn from the loss,”
Purnell said. “It’s always important to bounce back after a loss.”

His team will have that chance to bounce back in what is always one of the
most anticipated match-ups of the year against their archrival. Tip-off for
the game on Saturday is 7 p.m. at Littlejohn Coliseum. The game will be
televised by Fox Sports South.

“It’s do or die,” Purnell said. “We’re ready. It’s time to be ready.”

Some Reserved Seats Available

Clemson, SC--A limited number of tickets are still available for the
Clemson-South Carolina men's basketball game in Littlejohn Coliseum
Saturday, Dec. 6, at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at
Littlejohn Coliseum. The ticket windows will open at 5:30 PM.

The game will be the seventh One Clemson...Solid Orange event of the
2003-04 year, with Clemson winning all six previous matchups.
Halftime ceremonies will feature the accomplishments of
student-athletes of Clemson's fall sport teams. Included will be the
presentation of the Hardee's Trophy (traveling trophy), given each
year to the winner of the Clemson-South Carolina football game, to
the team captains. In addition, head coach Tommy Bowden will receive
his 2003 ACC Coach-of-the-Year award.

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