Clemson University

Career highs lead Clemson past Florida State

Clemson's Jerai Grant dunks during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball game against Florida State at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010.
Clemson's Jerai Grant dunks during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball game against Florida State at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010.

CLEMSON | David Potter picked the right time to end a long shooting slump for Clemson.

Potter was expected to be the Tigers best outside threat this season, filling the team's biggest need with last year's best shooters K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby gone. Instead, Potter watched in frustration as shot after shot clanged off rims or slid in-and-out.

"It was very frustrating," Potter said. "After a while, I wanted to stop shooting."

Good thing he didn't.

Potter posted a career-high 19 points, hitting four 3-pointers in a 77-67 win over Florida State that put the Tigers (17-7, 5-5 ACC) back on track in the crazy Atlantic Coast Conference chase.

Andre Young also had a career-high of 19 points as Clemson ended a four-game losing streak to the Seminoles (17-7, 5-5).

Clemson coach Oliver Purnell was just as happy as Potter to see his senior connect from the outside. The Tigers had lost four of their past five and were in danger of sliding totally out of the ACC picture.

"It'd be great to use this as a springboard to play great" the rest of the season, Purnell said.

Particularly if Potter and Young keep shooting this well. The two combined to go 7 of 12 from behind the arc. The Tigers' eight threes against Florida State were the most its had since before Christmas.

Young had two from long range and Potter hit one as the Tigers closed the opening half with an 18-8 run to lead 37-24.

The Seminoles, who rallied from 19 down to win here at Littlejohn Coliseum last season, could not come back in this one.

Luke Loucks had 15 points to lead Florida State. Solomon Alabi added 14, but fouled out with 3:33 to go.

Potter surpassed his previous best of 17 set Nov. 17 in a victory at Liberty. Young's old mark was 16 points in Clemson's win over East Carolina last December.

Tiger freshman Devin Booker, younger brother of Clemson star Trevor, also posted a career high with 14 points.

Trevor Booker ended with 13 points.

Potter had always been a sweet shooter and couldn't figure out why things had gone sour. His mechanics looked good and he kept lighting things up from the outside at practice.

In games, though, he feel himself think about missing as the ball left his hand, inevitably chasing after it as he finished his stroke.

That's when Potter, one of the Tigers' best defenders, thought about taking himself out of the offense.

Purnell would have none of it.

"You can't discount experience," the coach said.

So Potter talked with assistant Ron Bradley to lift his confidence. Signs of a resurgence were seen in last Saturday's loss at Virginia Tech when Potter went 3 of 5 from long range and reached double figure scoring in a game for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend.

Potter kept it going against the Seminoles, opening the game with a 3-pointer and never letting up.

"We all know that David's definitely capable," Young said. "We see it at practice all the time. He works hard and plays with a lot of effort."

Potter knows he can make a difference down the stretch this season for Clemson. "If I shoot well outside, it opens everything else up," he said.

The Tigers came out like a team desperate to halt their recent slide, taking a 9-0 lead less than five minutes in.

Clemson's pressure defense also took its toll on Florida State, which was fifth in the 12-team ACC in field goal percentage coming into the contest.

The Seminoles missed their first eight shots before Michael Snaer's 3-pointer got them on the board. Florida State's shooting problems, though, continued all half as it finished 6 of 24.

They got little help from Alabi and Chris Singleton, their two leading scorers this season. The pair shot a combined 5 of 13. Alabi, an 80-percent foul shooter, was 8 of 9 from the line.

While Florida State floundered, Clemson uncorked a shooting touch that was missing during his struggles. Potter and Young each had three 3-pointers in the opening half.

The Tigers eight 3s were the most it had in 13 games since getting 10 against East Carolina.

Florida State had already won twice on the road this season and last year at Littlejohn rallied from a 19-point, second-half deficit to beat the Tigers.

The Seminoles tried to channel that effort this time, too, slicing a 15-point lead to 73-65 with less than a minute remaining.

However, Clemson, the ACC's poorest foul shooters, made an uncharacteristic 14 of 18 from the line down the stretch to hold on.

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said his team could not match Clemson's "sense of urgency."

"In the ACC, unless you're at your best, something bad can happen to you," he said.