Jan. 13, 2004
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Point guard Vernon Hamilton keyed a suffocating Clemson defense with five steals, and reserve guard Shawan Robinson led all scorers with 10 points, as the Tigers downed Florida State Tuesday night, 53-48 at Littlejohn Coliseum. The victory elevated Clemson’s record to 8-6 overall, 1-2 in the ACC, while the Seminoles fell to 12-4 overall, 1-2 in the ACC.
Clemson will next be in action this Saturday evening when it travels to Raleigh to face NC State for an 8:00 PM game.
It was the first ACC victory for first-year head coach Oliver Purnell, who had opened his league schedule against top five teams Duke and Wake Forest. The 48 points scored by Florida State were the fewest by a Clemson opponent this year and the fewest by an ACC team against the Tigers since NC State scored 42 in a 59-42 Clemson victory over the Wolfpack on January 27, 2000.
Purnell’s team might have played its top defensive game of the season in gaining the victory. The Tigers held the Seminoles to 37 percent field goal shooting, including 30 percent on three-point attempts (6-20). Leonard Hamilton’s team entered the game shooting 47.2 percent overall and an ACC best 41 percent on three-point shots.
“It was all about defense tonight,” said Purnell. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well, only 35 percent from the field, and we still turned it over 18 times. But we made defensive plays down the stretch. Vernon made two super steals on the defense end that prevented Florida State from scoring and regaining the momentum. It was defense all night.”
While both teams were well under their scoring average the teams’ attacks were balanced. Clemson played nine players and all nine scored, had at least one field goal and at least one rebound. Florida State played 11 players and no one reached double figures, but eight of the 11 scored.
Robinson led the Tigers with 10 points, including a game best three three-point shots. Lamar Rice, also a reserve, added nine points and five rebounds. Hamilton and Chey Christie added seven points apiece. Hamilton also had seven assists and a season high tying five steals to go with just one turnover in 35 minutes against Florida State’s noted perimeter defense.
Michael Joiner, starting senior forward, led Florida State with nine points and seven rebounds and freshman reserve center Alexander Johnson, who also had nine. Tim Pickett, a preseason All-ACC selection, had just eight points on 3-14 shooting, including 2-11 on three-point attempts. Von Wafer, a freshman forward, added eight points and was the only player in the game to score four field goals.
Clemson, ranked second in the ACC in rebounding entering the game, had a +7 rebound margin (38-31) and forced more turnovers than it committed (20-18) for the first time in 10 games. Clemson outscored Florida State 23-17 in points off turnovers, greater than the final margin on the scoreboard.
Clemson jumped out to a 15-7 lead in the first nine minutes of the game, thanks in part to three-point shooting. Clemson scored 10 consecutive points including three-point goals by Robinson and Rice to take the eight-point advantage. Clemson moved the margin to 27-16 with 1:09 left in the half on a pair of free throws by Sharrod Ford, who played 30 minutes despite a cyst problem in his right knee. Clemson held Florida State to just three points in the final 6:30 of the first half and led 27-19 at halftime.
Clemson made just 1-8 shots to open the first half and still had just two field goals over the first 6:30 of the second half, allowing Florida State to take a 30-29 lead with 12:47 remaining in the game. But that would be Florida State’s only lead of the second half.
Clemson went on a 15-3 run over a nine-minute period to take a 44-33 lead. Florida State did not score a field goal from the 12:47 mark until the 3:47 mark of the second half. The defense was keyed by Hamilton. With the score 34-32 in favor of the Tigers with 9:37 left, he broke up a 3-on-1 break by stealing the ball from Anthony Richardson, a 6-7 forward who appeared to be headed for a game tying dunk.
“Vernon’s steal from Richardson off that break allowed us to keep the momentum,” said Purnell. “It was a great play.”
Florida State decided to put Clemson at the foul line down the stretch. Clemson did not have a field goal attempt in the last four minutes and allowed the Seminoles to get back into the game by making just 9-17 free throws down the stretch. Florida State cut the margin to 51-48 with 14 seconds left when Todd Galloway made a pair of free throws. But, Chey Christie answered with a pair of free throws with 13.3 seconds left. Nate Johnson, a 54-percent three-points shooter missed a three-point attempt and when Chris Hobbs pulled in the rebound, Clemson had its first ACC victory of the season.
“This was an important win for us,” said Purnell. “We jumped into the deep end of the pool to start the ACC race. When you start with Duke and Wake Forest, you come back home with an important game. We needed a win to get back into the thick of the race.”
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