|No. 25 Tigers off to another perfect start at 11-0|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 17 December 2008 23:16|
Off on another double-digit unbeaten streak, the No. 25 Tigers have landed in the national spotlight for the fourth straight season. Only this time, the Tigers hope to maintain their success deep into Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Clemson stands 11-0, the fourth consecutive year it has opened 10-0 or better. And with every victory, the Tigers gain a bit more notice on and off their football-crazy campus.
``It just shows how good we are,'' junior forward Trevor Booker says. ``We're still under the radar. Even though we're ranked, it took some time.''
It's hard to figure out why.
In 2005-06, Clemson opened 11-0 in its third season with coach Oliver Purnell. A year later, the Tigers went further as the nation's last unbeaten Division I, their 17-0 mark tying the school's best start ever. Clemson bounced back again last season with 10 straight wins before an overtime loss to top-ranked North Carolina.
y victories - Clemson is 43-0 the past four seasons in games played before Dec. 22 - came against opponents like the winless Ospreys (0-8).
He's also watched too many teams from power conferences get stunned on their home court in what were expected to be early season blowouts.
``We come to play every night,'' Purnell said. ``If you play hard every night and you're better than a team, then most of the time you're going to win.
``It's when you don't play hard, and then you don't shoot it well .... that's when you end up on ESPN's SportsCenter with a seemingly lesser team celebrating on your home court,'' Purnell said with a smile.
Clemson's players understand the focus it takes for a perfect run, forward K.C. Rivers said.
Rivers, one of only two seniors in the Tigers' regular rotation, has been part of all four streaks and says the team often talks about not slipping up by taking teams lightly.
Purnell and his staff do their part, too.
``You should've seen (Monday's) practice,'' said Clemson shooting guard Terrence Oglesby. ``They worked us hard.''
The anonymity won't last should Clemson's streak continue.
The Tigers head to Miami, where they've won only one of four meetings, to open ACC play on Sunday. Next up on Dec. 30 comes rival South Carolina, which has lost four in a row in the series.
``We've got to keep our heads on straight,'' Rivers said.
That's been a hard task for Clemson, where the best basketball moments flame out or get lost in the football frenzy that grips the school.
In 1980, the Tigers' season included 23 victories and a win over No. 1 Duke, the first time they'd defeated a top-ranked team. The next year, though, Clemson football stole the show with its 12-0, national championship season.
Clemson coach Cliff Ellis and stars Dale Davis and Elden Campbell made the NCAA's Sweet 16 in 1990 and all but had a berth in the next round sewn up against UConn. Then came Tate George's turnaround miracle shot with a second left that lifted the Huskies to 71-70 victory.
Ellis' successor, Rick Barnes, brought the last run of success to Clemson in the mid-1990s that included three straight NCAA tournament appearances. But Barnes bolted for Texas after the 1998 season and Clemson's basketball momentum left with him.
Purnell has gradually gained back ground for Tiger hoops.
Clemson was dismissed in 2005-06 and 2006-07 when their perfect starts were followed by 7-9 ACC seasons.
d up last year's fast start by going 10-6 in the league, their first winning ACC record in 11 years. Clemson capped it off with an NCAA tournament trip, its first since Barnes left a decade earlier.
The goal this season is to creep up on ACC powers North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest and hang around the NCAAs longer than last March when Villanova knocked the Tigers out in the first round.
``I'm anxious to get started,'' said Rivers, Clemson's leading scorer the past two seasons. ``This is something I'm prepared for and I'm ready.''