CLEMSON, S.C. -- Sharrod Ford had 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead Clemson to an 88-81 victory over High Point on Monday night.
The Tigers, 2-0 for new coach Oliver Purnell, led 45-41 at the break and never trailed the rest of the way, but could not shake the smaller Panthers (1-1) from the Big South Conference.
Clemson was up 61-49 with 15:18 left, but Javier Palacios hit two foul shots and Zione White had a driving basket to bring High Point within 82-77 with 1:29 to go.
The Tigers recovered, though. Olu Babalola made three free throws and Ford put in a pass from Vernon Hamilton to extend the lead to 87-77 with 51 seconds left.
Hamilton, a freshman starting his second game at point guard, had 12 points, eight assists and four steals. Chey Christie led five Tigers in double figures with 19 points.
Zione White led High Point with 26 points. Danny Gathings had 17 and Jerry Echenique 12 for the Panthers.
High Point's smaller lineup and high pressured man-to-man forced 15 Clemson turnovers in the first half.
The game was tied three times in first 10 minutes.
Ford helped the Tigers get the lead for good with two baskets during a 10-0 first-half run that turned their two-point deficit into a 30-22 lead.
Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said High Point's toughness and tenaciousness gave his team problems all game.
"They played their tails off and they didn't back down," Purnell said. "We didn't play as well as we played in our first game. High Point had a lot to do with that."
Purnell said his team played in spurts and did not to the extras that matter - like they did in their 86-55 victory over Gardner-Webb that opened the season last Friday night.
Purnell said they didn't handle the Panthers' tight man-to-man defense that denied all the passing lanes.
"We were a step slow and not sharp early," Purnell said. "We weren't sharp mentally."
High Point coach Bart Lundy liked the way his team battled despite the larger, stronger Tigers. "We showed a lot of character," he said.
Lundy said the only way High Point could hang with Clemson was to deny the entry pass into the middle and keep Sharrod Ford and Chris Hobbs from converting easy buckets underneath the basket.
Despite keeping it close, Lundy says the team's not satisfied with defeat.
"We didn't execute offensively. That's what we talked about in the locker room. If we had executed offensively, we could've won the game,"