Tigers bag another pre-Christmas victory

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CLEMSON, S.C. --- Clemson is far from perfect. The 25th-ranked Tigers just seem to start every season that way under coach Oliver Purnell.

Trevor Booker had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots and Clemson beat North Florida 76-36 Tuesday night to move to 11-0 for the third time in the past four seasons.

The Tigers improved to 43-0 since the 2005-06 season in games played before Dec. 22.

Such play sometimes leaves Purnell scratching his head about what to harp on at the next practice.

Offense? Clemson shot nearly 52 percent in the second half.

Defense? The Tigers forced 22 turnovers and had 11 blocks. This was the fewest points against Clemson since a 77-28 victory over Wofford on Feb. 6, 1996.

"I would like to see us play better," Purnell said. "I guess that's always the case."

He could always point to the Tigers' sluggish start when they often gave up uncontested shots to North Florida players surprised they were so wide open.

Germaine Sparkes' basket put the Ospreys up 13-12 about 8 minutes in and the game was tied 17-all after DeVon Jones scored on an easy basket.

"We didn't come out the way we wanted," Clemson guard Terrence Oglesby said.

Then Clemson took control, outscoring the Ospreys 20-5 the rest of the half.

Oglesby got things going with a jumper, Demontez Stitt made three free throws and freshman Tanner Smith hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 29-19.

Booker scored five consecutive points as Clemson increased its lead to 33-20.

Oglesby finished the burst right before halftime, making two free throws after a hard shot from Eni Cuka knocked him to the court.

North Florida was 2 of 8 from the field and had five turnovers during Clemson's run.

Despite the lead, there wasn't a lot of solid play to cheer about for the sparse post-semester crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum. One of the night's loudest ovations came at halftime as Santa Claus handed out lollipops.

Stitt got the fans out of their seats early in the second half, the 6-foot-2 point guard dunking over 6-6 Stan Januska.

Booker's flying slam 9 minutes later again had the fans up and gave the Tigers a 60-28 lead.

The biggest cheer, though, came only moments from the end when 7-2 freshman Catalin Baciu's basket earned free tacos for the fans from a local fast-food chain.

North Florida coach Matt Kilcullen said his club showed resolve and patience on defense despite falling to 0-3 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

"Some of it was just size and strength," Kilcullen said. "I can be next to you, but if you're 50 pounds heavier, I can try and move you."

Clemson forward K.C. Rivers, who had six points and 10 rebounds, said the Tigers take pride in not slipping up against lesser opponents.

"We talk about how great teams, good teams, need to be at their best whether it's North Carolina or North Florida, who we played tonight," he said.

Booker was 6 of 9 from the field.


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