Losing in overtime to the top team in the nation in its conference opener left Clemson emotionally drained. It showed as the Tigers also lost their next game.
The 18th-ranked Tigers look to avoid a three-game slide when they host ACC rival Florida State on Saturday.
Clemson (12-3, 0-1) had won 12 of 13 when it entered conference play Sunday against undefeated No. 1 North Carolina, which won its first 16 games by an average of 21.4 points. The Tigers gave the Tar Heels toughest contest of the season, forcing overtime before eventually falling 90-88.
That performance left the Tigers vulnerable, however, and Clemson followed with an uninspired 82-72 loss against Charlotte on Wednesday night.
After the North Carolina loss, Clemson coaches told their players that their next opponent was ready to beat them “because we were mentally soft after the North Carolina game,” Clemson center Trevor Booker said Wednesday. “That’s what they did.”
Booker had a career-high 32 points and added 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season, but the Tigers committed 18 turnovers and shot just 38.5 percent from the field, including 4-for-20 from 3-point range.
“We took ourselves out of it,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “They outhustled us, outscrapped us, outplayed us and beat us. I was very disappointed with the way we played and the way we handled the mental challenge.”
The Tigers will try to rebound against the Seminoles (12-4, 1-0), who won their ACC opener over Georgia Tech on Dec. 30, but haven’t been 2-0 in conference play since the 1999-2000 season.
Last Saturday, the Seminoles made 25 consecutive free throws and went 30-for-32 overall from the line to beat La Salle 81-76. Uche Echefu had 19 points and seven rebounds while going 11-for-11 from the line, and Ralph Mims added 19 points off the bench, including nine from the line.
“Uche Echefu and Ralph Mims have probably been our most consistent players over the last six, seven games,” said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, whose team ranks first in the country in free-throw percentage at 80.0. “They’ve had very little ups and downs, played within themselves. They’ve made very few mistakes and given tremendous effort.”
Hamilton is seeking his 300th career victory, and his 100th with Florida State.
Florida State leads the series with Clemson 26-23, including a 3-2 mark when the Tigers have been ranked. The Seminoles, though, have lost six straight road games against Clemson since their 75-63 win at Littlejohn Coliseum on March 3, 2001.
The Tigers won both regular-season meetings with the Seminoles last season, but Florida State knocked Clemson out of the ACC tournament with a 67-66 victory in the first round.