Wake Hands Tigers Worst Littlejohn Loss Ever

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Though there are very few consolations in a 35-point loss on your home court, at least Oliver Purnell can file this one under "growing pains" for his young basketball team.

Fourth-ranked Wake Forest put its potent offense on display Saturday afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum, ripping Purnell's Clemson team, 103-68. It was Clemson's first loss at home this season, but second straight defeat inside the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The margin of victory was Wake's largest on the road in the ACC in school history. The Deacons (13-1, 2-0) also became the first team to score over 100 points on Clemson since they turned the trick at Littlejohn on Feb. 13, 2002 - a game the Tigers won 118-115 in double overtime.

But there was no such elation for Purnell after this one. Only disappointment.

"We certainly did not play well in any phase of the game," Purnell said. "You go from inbounding the basketball to inability to step in and take charges, something we've done a good job of all year long...etc., etc., etc. We just didn't do anything, I can think of, well.

"When you do that against a great team this is the result.

The barrage - literally - began early.

Wake Forest guard Justin Gray nailed five straight 3-point attempts in the game's first 4:30 to propel the Deacs to a quick 18-8 lead. Though Clemson (9-5, 0-2) would recover from Gray's spurt in the short-term, if anything the start seemed to relax Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons came into Saturday's game averaging 16.6 turnovers per contest. They committed just nine in the game, four of which came after they had already amassed 95 points.

Once Gray loosened up the inside, center Eric Williams was able to work in the paint with little trouble. Williams scored 21 points to compliment Gray's final total of 31, two of the four Deacs to reach double figures.

"That's as well as we've played all year," said Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser. "I thought Justin Gray in the beginning...I was scared. Do I call another play for him? He was raining those threes. His early flurry, that really set the tone and gave the other kids confidence."

Wake Forest never let Clemson any closer than six points the rest of the half, and led 48-37 at the break.

The Deacs then wasted little time putting away the game in the second half, opening with a 16-4 run inside the first 3:51. They followed that up with a quick 8-2 spurt for a 71-42 lead at the 12:55 mark, then put it on cruise control the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Wake's defense put the clamps on Clemson's leading scorer, Sharrod Ford.

Ford, averaging 15.1 points per game coming in, finished with just six on the afternoon - all from the free throw line. He was 0-for-5 from the field, and spent most of the day fighting a losing battle against a Demon Deacon double-team every time he touched the ball on the low post.

"Our game plan was to double Ford, and I thought we did a pretty good job," said Prosser. "You hope to take away Ford and (Shawan) Robinson when you're making the game plan, and if you take away one you're lucky. But I thought we did a good job on Ford."

But for Purnell it was more than just a tough night for Ford.

"It started with Gray, and then we got down on ourselves a little bit," he said. "I was disappointed because we executed very little that was in our game plan.

"But I expect we'll bounce back."

Robinson finished with 10 points for the Tigers, just below his season average. Akin Akingbala led Clemson with 16 points.

Chris Paul and Trent Strickland had 14 and 12 points, respectively, for Wake Forest.


- The 35-point loss was Clemson's worst-ever in Littlejohn Coliseum, surpassing the 32-point defeat (92-60) at the hands of Wake Forest on Feb. 21, 2001. It was the worst home loss for the Tigers since Dec. 14, 1954 at old Fike Fieldhouse, when Clemson fell to N.C. State 112-72;

- Saturday's win was Wake Forest's eighth straight. Both of their conference victories have come on the road;

- Clemson shot just 59.5 percent from the free throw line Saturday (22-of-37), prompting Purnell to put that atop the list of things to work on at practice this week;

- Clemson's next two games are on the road, at Florida State on Wednesday and at Virginia Tech next Saturday;

- Saturday's announced crown was 9,700.

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