CLEMSON, S.C. - It may have been final exam week, but Clemson's basketball team didn't ace its game against Charleston Southern. Coach Oliver Purnell was at least happy the Tigers managed a passing grade.
The Tigers (5-1) played well in spurts, but could very rarely maintain that style of play for more than a few minutes at a time.
As a result, Clemson got a closer than expected 73-55 victory over the Buccaneers on Saturday night in front of a very sparse crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum.
"Obviously we could have played better," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "But I feel good about getting out of here with a win following exam week. We just didn't have the energy tonight that we've had other nights."
Purnell says this is traditionally the toughest week to get his team's attention because they're typically up nights studying.
Two players who seemed unaffected by it all for Clemson were center Sharrod Ford and guard Cliff Hammonds.
Ford led all scorers with 16 points and also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots.
Hammonds did all his damage from the outside by hitting 5-of-5 from the field, including four 3-pointers, to finish with 14 points.
After missing his first eight 3-pointers to start the season, Hammonds has connected on his last 14-of-19 from beyond the arc.
Hammonds' scoring output picked up the slack for junior guard Shawan Robinson, who entered the game as Clemson's leading scorer at 17.6 points per game, but was scoreless Saturday night for the first time since his freshman season.
"Nothing has really changed for me," Hammonds said of his newfound shooting stroke. "I'm doing the same thing I've always been doing. They're just going in now and hopefully they'll keep going in."
The Tigers opened the game on a 9-0 run over the first 5:47 and Charleston Southern (1-3) didn't score its first basket until the 13:24 mark of the first half.
"I thought our team paid them too much respect," Buccaneers coach Jim Platt said. "Obviously size and intimidation made it tough for us in the inside."
Clemson, which committed only six turnovers in the first half, took its first big lead with a 15-7 run that gave the Tigers a 31-17 lead with 2:19 left until intermission.
Clemson went into halftime with a 34-23 lead.
After a slow start to the second half, Clemson built its lead to 50-30 with 12:08 left to play on a Ford basket off an offensive rebound.
However, moments later Tigers forward Babalola sustained a right high-ankle sprain and had to be helped off the court with 9:52 remaining in the game. He was then escorted to the locker room.
Purnell listed him as doubtful for Tuesday's game against Norfolk State.
Clemson's biggest lead of the night was 22 points, which was reached on several different occasions during the second half.
Nathan Ball led Charleston Southern with 13 points, while Babalola and Akin Akingbala each added 10 for the Tigers.
Clemson is now 93-12 in its history against teams from the state of South Carolina in Littlejohn Coliseum.
But this won't go down as one of the more memorable wins.
"I think we should have beat that team by more than 18," Ford said. "I think that we kind of got out of what we wanted to do."
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