TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - While not as appalling as Clemson's all-time record at Chapel Hill or Durham, life at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee has been no day at the beach.
The home of the Florida State Seminoles used to be called the Leon Co. Coliseum. But no matter what name graces the marquee when the Tigers visit FSU tonight, past history will be strictly with the home team; Clemson is 3-13 all-time in Tallahassee, 2-11 at the Tucker Center.
Such is the task facing a team which is 0-9 on the road in ACC play since Oliver Purnell took over at Clemson, 3-38 in its last 41 away from home in the league. The Tigers (9-5 overall, 0-2 ACC) have a current league road skid of 12 games.
Yet for all the numbers working against his team, Purnell doesn't believe this particular incarnation of the Clemson Tigers are bothered by such statistics.
"Every team has to develop its own personality," he said. "Getting an ACC road win now is critical because that's our next two games. It's important now because we want to make some noise in this conference race.
"We need a win, and it just happens to be a road game."
The Seminoles (9-6, 1-1) have been playing slightly below the expectations of head coach Leonard Hamilton this season, but they still provide a significant challenge for the Tigers.
Florida State's starting power forward, 6-foot-8 center Adam Waleskowski, is averaging almost 11 points per game and has a knack for making big plays against the Tigers. The Seminoles' leading scorer is 6-5 sophomore guard Von Walter, who averages 12.3 points, and 6-10 center Alexander Johnson checks in at 8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
But Purnell, worried as he may be about FSU and its voodoo spell over the Tigers in Tallahassee, is more concerned about the play of his own team.
The Tigers are coming off a 35-point home loss at the hands of Wake Forest, the worst Clemson defeat in the history of Littlejohn Coliseum. The margin of the loss was embarrassing, to be sure. But at this stage of Purnell's rebuilding such games are not all that unusual.
What bothered the second-year Tigers' coach most, he said, was why the game got out of hand.
"It's important to point out Wake's awfully good and played awfully well. They deserved to win, and win in a big way," said Purnell. "I'm concerned about how we reacted in the first half to some adversity. Part of that adversity was Gray really getting off, shooting the ball really well. It seemed to take the wind out of our sails to the point where we weren't doing game plan type things."
"(Since then) we've addressed kind of basic things we need to do for our team to play well, be it defending or rebounding. (Those things have) got to happen for us every night to give us an opportunity to win...As we get into ACC play the level of competition steps up every night, and we have to step up (in those areas) to have an opportunity to win."
- Purnell and Hamilton are both in their 17th seasons as a Divison I head coach. Purnell has coached 489 games and Hamilton has coached 487. The two coaches have faced each other just twice (last year) and have split the two games;
- Senior center Sharrod Ford is attempting to become just the second player in Clemson history to improve his scoring average by at least 3.0 per game in three consecutive years. Ford, who averages 14.4 per game so far this year, needs to average 14.9 for the season to join Horace Grant in that exclusive club;
- Junior center Akin Akingbala has improved his scoring average this year to 9.0 points per game, up from 4.8 last season. He is 7-of-10 from the field in two ACC games so far this season, including the Wake Forest game when he made 5-of-6 field goals and led the Tigers in scoring with a career high tying 16 points. He is shooting .646 from the field for the year.