Tigers Kick Off ACC Season with Rout of Miami

by - Senior Writer -

An ACC road win, 28 points from the incomparable K.C. Rivers and a still-unblemished record are more than enough to give Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell a smile bright enough to light up Clemson for the holidays.

The Tigers proved their Top 25 ranking is for real and used two different runs to defeat the Miami Hurricanes 91-72 Sunday in the Atlantic Coast Conference Opener for both teams, improving Clemson to 12-0 (1-0 in ACC play).

"We are very pleased to kick off the ACC season with a road win because they are very difficult to get," Purnell said. "Our guys came in with the proper mindset that you need to win going on the road against a good team."

The Tigers faced an early 12-point deficit as it looked like the Hurricanes might hold serve on their home court and send the Tigers out of the national rankings Miami's Cyrus McGowan made each of his first four shots as the Hurricanes blazed out to a 21-9 lead over the first nine minutes, matching the largest deficit that Purnell's team has faced so far this season.

The Tigers, lacking in their signature defensive pressure to that point in the contest, turned up the heat,, fueling a 16-0 run that saw them take a 25-21 lead during a frenetic 2 ½ minute span. David Potter scored seven points, Rivers added five and Trevor Booker four points during the run.

In all, Clemson forced 16 turnovers in the opening half, including 12 in just the final 11 minutes.

"I thought our guys came in with the proper mind-set that you have to have when you're going on the road, in league, against a good team," Purnell said. "You've got to be prepared to take their initial blow in the beginning of the game … but I thought our guys really settled down and showed great poise."

Clemson led 38-30 at halftime, the jumped out to an 11-point lead early in the half before Miami started a comeback, trimming the Tiger lead to just six at 52-46 with 13:12 remaining in the game, but Terrence Oglesby (17 points) hit a 3-pointer with 12:50 left, then Rivers connected for two more treys to push Clemson's edge to 61-47. Oglesby then capped the evening's festivities with 5:53 left, connecting from beyond the arc again to make it 79-62.

"We've still got a long road ahead of us, but this is just the start of our journey," Rivers said. "This team here is capable of doing good things and I think we will do good things down the road."

Miami (7-3, 0-1) head coach Frank Haith said his team was dominated, pure and simple.

Obviously, that was a butt-whuppin'," Haith said. "Those guys gave it to us. They were tougher than we were. Mentally we weren't tough. Missed free throws, turning the ball over, that was the difference in the game. They played tough hard-nosed basketball and they went after us.

"Obviously it became real tough because every time we made a run, they made plays, and you have to give them credit. I think they were really prepared and came after us. A lot of our turnovers were just silly turnovers. Oglesby, he's going to make some shots, and defensively we had a lot of breakdowns in the second half."

In addition to his 28 points, Rivers added two rebounds, the last of which was the 600th of his Clemson career. Booker added only eight points, but grabbed 16 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Demontez Stitt added 10 points to join Oglesby and Rivers as the only Tigers in double figures, and dished out five assists.

Clemson now has a nine-day break for the holidays, playing at South Carolina on Dec. 30 as part of a three-game out of conference run that includes hosting East Carolina (Jan. 3) and Alabama (Jan. 6) before stepping back into ACC play with a home game against N.C. State on Jan. 10th.

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