When NC State’s Dennis Smith threw up a three-pointer with three seconds to play in the game on Wednesday at Littlejohn Coliseum, every Clemson fan held their collective breaths.
They have seen it before. With their Tigers up two points, the opposing team makes the game-winning shot with seconds to play or on the last shot. It already happened three times with last-second defeats to Syracuse, Duke and Virginia Tech.
So when Smith’s shot went up over Avery Holmes’ outstretched hands, it seemed like time stopped for just a second, but finally one did not go in. Smith’s shot was off the mark and to the right, and landed out of bounds with three seconds to play as Clemson hung on for a 78-74 victory.
Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame admitted his heart stopped just a little bit when Smith’s shot went into the air as time ran down.
“It did a little bit, but I saw it was wide right,” Blossomgame said smiling.
It was the second time this year an NC State team lost on a three-point field goal to Clemson. The football team lost after kicker Kyle Bambard missed a 33-yard field goal on the last play of regulation this past October. The Tigers eventually won the game in overtime on a Deshaun Watson to Artavis Scott touchdown pass, and a Marcus Edmond interception.
Just like when Bambard’s kick went in the air and started to sail to the right, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell could see the same on Smith’s shot.
“I could tell that one was off,” he said. “You know, it is funny because some of the other ones I have been online with them, and I could tell they were in, too, the Seth Allen one for sure. But our guys did a better job. We switched a bunch of different things, guys really reacted and Sidy (Djitte) actually made a really good contested on a step out because they had a lot of different action. He was bumping back and he made a nice read to kind of jump out.
“Jaron did a nice job zoning up some things behind it, but it was good.”
Blossomgame scored 10 of his 16 points in the final 6:19 to lead Clemson, while guard Shelton Mitchell also scored 16 points before his knee, again, started acting up on him. Djitte added 12 points to go with 9 rebounds and Marcquise Reed tallied 11 points. Gabe DeVoe had 10 points for the Tigers.
Clemson (15-14, 5-12 ACC) not only made a big stop in Wednesday’s win, but it also got a big bucket late in the game. With the scored tied at 72, Blossomgame made a three-pointer from the right wing with 1:27 to play for a 75-72 lead.
Blossomgame later made two free throws with two seconds left to seal the Tigers’ four-point win. Blossomgame was 0-for-5 from the field in the first half and did not score in the first 20 minutes. He had just six points on 2-of-10 shooting before scoring 10 points in the last 6:19.
“In certain games, it’s easier to get him the ball than others,” Brownell said. “We had some opportunities. They did a really good job on him. The size bothered him for a long while. He didn’t have a good first half, when he missed some that he can make.
“We’re certainly going to try to get him the ball in most instances. Some games, again, it’s easier than others, just because of size, personnel and length, as well as the way certain teams are guarding you. But he was really good. You don’t expect him to not play well. When he’s 0-for-5, you feel like he’s got five coming. He knows we believe in him. He’s our guy, and we’re going to get him the ball.”
Blossomgame will play in his last regular season game at Clemson when the Tigers host Boston College on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the season finale.