Jan. 29, 2011
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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Florida State found out from Clemson what it’s like to play against a stifling defense.
Jerai Grant had 14 points, Demontez Stitt added 12 and the Tigers used their defense to upset No. 22 Florida State 62-44 on Saturday.
Clemson (15-6, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) forced 22 turnovers and held the Seminoles (15-6, 5-2) to less than 33 percent shooting from the field, numbers Florida State’s opponents have typically put up this season.
Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton had little explanation for his team’s poor performance, which followed a four-game win streak that gave them their best ACC start since 1992-93. The Seminoles, who ended Duke’s undefeated season this month, moved into the poll this week as the ACC’s other ranked school. That’s likely to be short-lived with the loss.
“We’re a big, strong, physical team,” Hamilton said. “But their physicality knocked us back on our heels.”
And it happened quickly.
Clemson rushed to a 22-6 lead and the Seminoles never got closer than eight the rest of the way. It was the first victory against a ranked opponent for first-year Tigers coach Brad Brownell.
The Seminoles had no answers for Clemson, with no player reaching double-figure scoring. Leading scorer Chris Singleton managed just two points the first 35 minutes. He hit a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch, but those came with Florida State well behind.
Singleton finished with eight points, nearly seven fewer than his average. Bernard James also had eight points to lead Florida State.
“We never seemed to be able to get back to that level of confidence in our offensive execution,” Hamilton said.
It was a surprising stumble since the Seminoles entered the game 10-8 in ACC road games the past three years, a mark that trailed only Duke’s 11-8 record.
“There are moral victories and I guess there are moral losses,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully, we will learn from this that life on the road in the ACC this year will be a lot of these type of games for the visiting teams.”
Brownell took over last spring after Oliver Purnell left for the DePaul job. With longtime star Trevor Booker off to the NBA, Brownell figured to have a difficult time installing his motion offense.
However, with seniors Grant and Stitt leading the way, the Tigers have had a strong start to the ACC season. They rallied from 19 points down to beat North Carolina State, 60-50, at home Tuesday night and kept the run going against Florida State.
Cory Stanton followed with two foul shots that pushed Clemson to a 22-6 lead with 12:01 to go.
Florida State crept back into the game with a 12-5 closing run. Still, the Seminoles had their struggles that kept them from tightening things up even more and trailed 27-18 at the half.
Singleton didn’t play the last 13 minutes of the first period after getting two fouls. The Seminoles had 15 turnovers in the period, more than in each of their past three victories.
Singleton’s time on the bench had nothing to do with Florida State’s loss, Hamilton said.
Clemson pulled away in the second half. Stitt opened with a driving basket and a 3-pointer. Tanner Smith, a starter who missed the past two games with a knee sprain, nailed a long-range basket.
When Stitt made his second 3 with 12:27 left, the Tigers were ahead 42-20.
Stitt said the Tigers read an article about Florida State’s defensive improvements and the players vowed to use a similar stinginess.
“We wanted to put pressure on them on the offensive and defensive end,” Stitt said. “It was tough for them to score.”
Clemson introduced several past players, including longtime NBA standout, Wayne “Tree” Rollins, before the game. The Tigers might have wanted to sneak the 7-footer onto the court to have a chance against the taller Seminoles.
Instead, Clemson played shoulder-to-shoulder with Florida State under the boards. Grant led the way with eight rebounds, including five offensive.
The Seminoles shot just 4 of 17 from 3-point range. They also had 22 turnovers, tied for their second highest total this season.
“We’ve had a good home week,” Brownell said. “But we’ve got a lot more to do before we’re significant.”
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