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Clemson Downs Gardner-Webb In Season Opener, 86-55

Clemson Downs Gardner-Webb In Season Opener, 86-55

Nov 21, 2003

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CLEMSON, S.C. – Chris Hobbs scored 17 points and Clemson kicked off the Oliver Purnell era with a runaway victory, 86-55, over Gardner-Webb on Friday night.

There was less than a full house at remodeled Littlejohn Coliseum to greet Purnell – probably because of the annual Clemson-South Carolina football game in Columbia on Saturday night. And the new coach had to wince through some clunky play by young point guards Vernon Hamilton and Shawan Robinson.

But things could not have gone better for Purnell in his first game at Clemson (1-0).

Gardner-Webb (1-2) and its solid three-point shooters had figured to give the young, untested Tigers a good go. After all, the Bulldogs trailed Clemson’s downstate rival South Carolina, 68-67, with less than two minutes to go on Monday night.

But Purnell’s “big wall” philosophy on defense and Hamilton’s quickness at the point fueled a 21-2 run that turned a tight early game into a rout.

Gardner-Webb hit four 3-pointers on the way to lead 14-9. Josh Chiles’ basket with 13:34 remaining in the opening half put them ahead 19-18.

Robinson began Clemson’s run with a 3-pointer. Olu Babalola scored 7 points, including a fan-friendly slam dunk. When Jimmy Hudson, a freshman, banked home an unorthodox 3-poniter on his first field goal attempt, the Tigers led 39-21.

Gardner-Webb never got closer than 17 points the rest of the way.

The Tigers had four others besides Hobbs with double-figure scoring – Babalola 12, and Chey Christie, Akin Akingbala and Robinson had 10 each.

Chris Wiggins led the Bulldogs with 14 points.

While Hobbs led the Tigers’ inside game and Hamilton shined in running the team for the first time, the real star was Purnell.

Clemson coach Oliver Purnell is victorious in his coaching debut with the Tigers.

The former Dayton coach was picked in April to lead the Tigers back into the Atlantic Coast Conference hunt after three last-place finishes and an eighth spot the past four years with Larry Shyatt.

Purnell, in a gray suit with matching shoes, powder blue button-down shirt and blue checked tie, watched from his seat the game’s first few minutes. He got into the flow as Clemson’s play picked up.

Purnell may have clapped his loudest when the Tigers, already up 47-24, forced Gardner-Webb into a shot-clock violation during the first half.

He stood, arms folded during stretches of the second half, urging the team to play hard despite the large lead. “Set a SCREEN,” he yelled with about seven minutes to go, then sat down as a Clemson foul was called.

After the final buzzer, Purnell shook hands with Gardner-Webb coach Rick Scruggs then walked nonchalantly back to the locker room.

It was the largest margin of victory for a Clemson coach in his first game since Country Morris beat College of Charleston 65-16 during the 1916-17 season.