CLEMSON -- Clemson basketball coach Brad Brownell probably summed it up best.
"It's a tough day to be a Tiger," Brownell said after the College of Charleston held on for a 72-69 victory before a crowd of 5,000 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
It was the end of a miserable day for Tiger faithful, who also saw their football team get ripped by N.C. State.
However, it was a great day to be a Cougar.
Charleston jumped out to a 6-0 lead, built it to as many as 16, then hung on for the final eight minutes. It marked the Cougars' fourth big-time victim, two ACC and two SEC schools, in as many seasons: South Carolina in 2008-09, North Carolina in 2009-10, Tennessee in 2010-11 and now Clemson.
Charleston improved to 3-0, while Clemson fell to 2-1. Charleston's next game is Thursday against Central Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Clemson hosts Coastal Carolina on Tuesday.
The loss might have surprised Clemson fans, but the Cougar players came in expecting to win.
"We go into every game with a lot
of confidence," said junior guard Andrew Lawrence. We came here looking to win. I think our young guys had lots of confidence."
College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins, who spent a number of years in the ACC at Georgia Tech, said the Cougars' first-half performance was "as good a basketball as any team I've ever coached."
"We played a perfect first half. The young men did exactly what we talked about. I was ready to get on the bus at halftime," Cremins said after the Cougars raced out to a 39-24 lead at the break.
"I knew what was going to happen. The later it got, the sloppier we got. Clemson showed tremendous heart. We hung on for dear life. Any time you can come into ACC territory and get a W, it's a great feeling."
"Credit Charleston," said Brownell. "We knew their starting five all could score. They make you pay for mistakes."
One of the heroes of the game was a name familiar to Tiger fans. College of Charleston freshman Anthony Stitt is the cousin of Clemson start Demontez Stitt, who graduated last year. The younger Stitt played 27 minutes against Clemson's pressure defense, did not commit a turnover, scored eight points and had two assists. His final point came with 14 seconds left, giving the Cougars the 72-69 lead and capping a frantic final minute.
The Tigers had closed to 71-69 on a tip-in by Devin Booker with 1:18 left. Charleston committed a turnover, but a blocked shot by freshman Adjehi Baru was recovered by Antwaine Wiggins. Stitt got the ball upcourt and drove to the basket and was fouled. He missed the first free throw but made the second.
"He was big-time," said junior guard Andrew Lawrence. "We needed him today and he came through. We've seen him in practice and knew he could do it."
Wiggins led the Cougars with 22 points, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range. He also had seven rebounds. Lawrence and Trent Wiedeman both had 15 points, with Wiedeman adding eight rebounds. Baru had eight points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Tigers were led by Booker, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Tanner Smith scored 15, former Pinewood Prep start Milton Jennings added 14, and Andre Young scored 10.
"I wish we could have repeated (the first half) but we're just too young," Cremins said. "We're not that good yet. This is going to make us more of a target. It's just one game. It's obviously great for our program, but it's just one game."
3-Point -- Chas 5-18 (Wiggins 4-8, Wiedeman 0-1, Lawrence 1-3, Scott 0-1, Sundberg 0-2, Johnson 0-1,Stitt 0-1, Carlton 0-1); Clemson 6-21 (Jennings 1-2, Sapp 1-3,Smith 2-6, Young 2-9, Narcisse 0-1). Steals -- Chas. 6 (Lawrence 2); Clemson 6 (Smith 2, Young 2). Blks -- Chas 2 (Baru); Clemson 3 (Booker 2). Turnovers -- Chas. 11 (Wiggins 2, Wiedman 2, Scott 2, Carlton 2); Clemson 9 (Booker 3). A -- 5,000.