The 2005-2006 men’s basketball season has been filled with highs and lows. The Tigers were riding high at the first of the year after winning the Puerto Rico Shootout, then the Tigers lost starting power forward James Mays.
It was an adjustment period, to say the least, the next two games. Clemson lost its first game of the season in Athens against Georgia, then two days later fell to Elon.
After Elon, the hope of NCAA tournament bid was beginning to fade and some quietly question, if there would be a postseason at all for the Tigers.
Head Coach Oliver Purnell did not allow his team to quit. His team quickly responded by opening ACC play with a victory against Florida State. The Tigers played Virginia tough in Charlottesville, but fell short. It appeared the Tigers were in trouble as their next four games were Wake Forest, Duke, at Miami, and at Georgia Tech.
Cliff Hammonds headed a great team effort in an overtime win against Wake Forest. Free throw struggles would due the Tigers in against then #1 Duke. The Tigers were playing with confidence, but then only scored 38 points in a loss at Miami. Then, it became clear what to expect from the Tigers.
Expect the unexpected.
Georgia Tech had been playing well at home, but they had struggled with their backcourt play. Clemson turned up the defensive pressure and created havoc for the Yellow Jackets. The Tigers matched up well with the Yellow Jackets, but no one expected Clemson would leave Atlanta with a 10-point victory.
In Coach Purnell’s third season, he still has a young team that plays hard, but struggles with inconsistency. On a given night, this team has shown they can compete with the best the ACC has to offer, especially at home.
It has been almost eight years since Clemson was talking about the possibility of NCAA berth this late in the season. The Tigers are off until a Sunday afternoon match-up with NC State in Littlejohn Coliseum. A win would give the Tigers a big boost in confidence heading into a tough two-game road trip (Florida State and North Carolina), but I am reminded of a lesson that has been learned more than once in the town of Clemson, “Never, ever, ever, GIVE UP!”