Clemson picked up a rare win against one of its ACC rivals with relative ease, but its challenge may be in how it responds in its next game.
The No. 24 Tigers try to avoid another letdown following a big win Saturday when they visit North Carolina State, which already knocked off one ranked opponent this week.
Clemson (14-3, 2-1) snapped a 10-game losing streak against North Carolina with an 83-64 victory over the No. 12 Tar Heels on Wednesday. The Tigers led the entire game and forced 26 turnovers, scoring 33 points off them.
Trevor Booker led the Tigers with 21 points and nine rebounds and Demontez Stitt added a season-high 20 points.
“It’s always satisfying when you beat a Duke or a North Carolina or any team like that with a storied program, but I don’t look at it that way,” coach Oliver Purnell said. “This is an early ACC win, which is good for our team, but you don’t see me smiling yet.”
The win was Clemson’s second in three tries against top 15 opponents, with the Tigers beating Butler on Nov. 29 and losing at Duke on Jan. 3. They’ll be trying for their first conference road win Saturday. Clemson has won its last two road games against North Carolina State and four straight overall in the series.
Stitt will look to build off another impressive game against an elite opponent. The junior is second on the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game and is averaging 18.7 against ranked opponents. He made eight of 14 shots (57.1 percent) on Wednesday.
“We’ll enjoy this for the night, but tomorrow it’s time to go back to work,” Stitt said.
The Tigers are especially eager to respond well after losing 13 straight games following a win over a Top 25 opponent. Clemson’s last victory after beating a ranked team was during the 1997-98 season, hen the Tigers defeated a ranked South Carolina team then followed with a win over Seton Hall. Earlier this season, they followed a 70-69 victory over then-No. 12 Butler by blowing a 23-point lead and losing to Illinois 76-74.
North Carolina State (12-5, 1-2) is also trying to come out strong after an 88-81 road win over No. 25 Florida State on Tuesday. Scott Wood scored a career-high 31 points, going 7 of 11 from behind the arc. The Wolfpack finished with a season-high 11 3-pointers.
“Even a couple shots I took I thought ‘why am I shooting this?’ And they just went in,” said Wood, who also had seven rebounds and two steals. I’m just like ‘alright, just keep puttin’ it up there,’” he said. “Once you have that confidence you feel you can hit anything.”
Wood, a freshman averaging 8.9 points, helped N.C. State bounce back after the Wolfpack opened the ACC season with losses at Wake Forest and at home against Virginia - each by eight points. They shot 36.8 percent in those games.
N.C. State, though, might need better games from its two top scorers to build on its first ACC win. Tracy Smith, averaging 16.9 points, went 1 of 8 to finish with a season-low seven points against the Seminoles. Dennis Horner, scoring 13.1 points per game, managed only eight.
The Wolfpack’s tough schedule continues when they host No. 8 Duke next week. They haven’t won consecutive games against ranked opponents since 2007 when they defeated Virginia Tech and North Carolina.