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Clemson sinks NC State to continue torrid start

Jan 10, 2007 - 5:31 AM RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Moving into conference play has done little to slow down Clemson.

Vernon Hamilton scored 21 points to lead the 14th-ranked Tigers to an 87-76 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over North Carolina State.

Clemson (17-0, 3-0 ACC) remained the only unbeaten team in Division I and matched the best start in school history, set in 1986-87.

"Obviously, I'm very proud of our group," Tigers coach Oliver Purnell said. "They tied school history tonight. They'll be remembered now for getting off to the fastest start in school history. They're the only unbeaten team in the country. Most importantly, they're 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with two of those on the road, and those are very hard to get."

A trio of 3-pointers bridging halftime allowed the Tigers to open a double-digit lead the Wolfpack could never overcome, getting no closer than eight points the rest of the way.

James Mays and K.C. Rivers scored 16 points apiece for Clemson, which shot 56 percent (35-of-63) from the field and hit 10-of-19 shots from the arc.

Rivers nailed a 3-pointer to close out the scoring in the first half and give the Tigers a 40-36 lead. The Wolfpack had erased most of a 10-point deficit to get within 37-36 before Rivers connected.

"The first half we did a nice job and we were able to get the ball inside," Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe said. "The pressure Clemson had didn't bother us, and we hung in there. The second half we turned the ball over right away and they started pounding us on the boards. Experience definitely took over. They stuck to their game plan and got it done."

Cliff Hammonds and Hamilton hit back-to-back shots from the arc to open the second half as Clemson scored the first eight points to extend the margin to 48-36.

"We thought we could wear (NC State) down tonight, but they hung with us in the first half," Purnell said. "I think the Georgia Tech game, on the road last Saturday, took a little something out of us. To their credit, they were able to stay with us. They made us pay for our pressure in the half-court game.

"We were able to pull away a little in the second half. We had a little spurt to get (the lead) to 10-12, and that's about where it stayed most of the rest of the way."

The Tigers led by as many as 18 with four minutes to play, before a pair of 3-pointers by Trevor Ferguson and Brandon Costner cut the lead to 83-74 with 35 seconds left.

While Clemson actually had more turnovers than North Carolina State, 19-17, the Tigers' converted the Wolfpack's miscues into 21 points.

"One thing we talked about was the press. They're an active team," Lowe said. "We have to have two-hand passes, but we kept making one-handed passes. We can't do that. We need to work on controlling the ball. Clemson kept up the intensity and kept us from scoring."

Gavin Grant scored 22 points for North Carolina State (10-6, 0-3), who remain winless in conference play despite shooting 55 percent (29-of-53) and hitting 9-of-14 from the arc.

Ben McCauley added 15 points and Dennis Horner and Costner 14 each as the Wolfpack concluded a five-game homestand.

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    CLEMSON (14) 40 47 87
    NC STATE 36 40 76 FINAL

    Jan 9 8:56 PM

    CLEMSON (14) 40

    Jan 9 7:53 PM