The ending to Saturday’s semifinal matchup between the Tigers and Heels was all too familiar. Clemson led for most of the game and took the Heels to overtime, but fell 92-87.
“It’s a very difficult loss for us. I thought we played very well for long stretches and really controlled the game for a good part. North Carolina’s got some very talented players, and Harrison Barnes was outstanding. We couldn’t guard him. We couldn’t stop him. He was a real difference maker for them. I’m really proud of the way my guys competed. I thought we played as hard as we could and had a couple of chances to make some shots to really ice the game late during the last couple of minutes, and we missed them,” said Brownell.
The Tigers had several chances to ice the game in the final minutes but couldn’t get the key basket.
“Open shots, open shots. Look at the film. We had Tanner Smith with a wide open three, and if he makes it the game’s over. This guy (Stitt) had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win. Do you want to draw something up? Do you think it’s going to be better? We do taht and then Roy will change defenses. Coaches aren’t just going to let you run a play to win the game. You get the ball to your best player, give him space and let him make a shot. By not calling a timeout, you don’t allow the opposing coach to change defenses and trap you. If you watch North Carolina play, they never let you shoot the last shot. They’re going to trap you. They’re going to make somebody else make a play, not one of your better players. But on forced turnovers, they’re going to give themselves a chance to win the game. We didn’t want to do any of that, so we got the ball to our best player and gave him space. By the way, my best player had 25 points tonight, so he played pretty well,” said Brownell.
Demontez Stitt led the Tigers with 25 points. Milton Jennings came off the bench to score 16 points and pull down seven rebounds. Tanner Smith and Andre Young each added 14.
Harrison Barnes scored 40 for North Carolina including 6-8 from three. The 40 by Barnes was the most ever in 115 ACC Tournament semifinals. John Henson added 18 for the Heels.
Clemson finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three.
The Tigers jumped out to a 7-3 lead thanks to a dunk and a layup by Devin Booker. Demontez Stitt added a layup after a turnover to make it 9-3.
A three by Tanner Smith with 15:32 to go put Clemson up 14-3. Milton Jennings added a three to make it 17-6. Demontez Stitt hit a jumper to make it 20-8 Tigers. Milton Jennings hit another three to put the Tigers up 23-11 with 9:35 to go.
Harrison Barnes hit a three to cut the lead to seven. Jerai Grant answered with his first basket of the game. Jerai Grant fed Milton Jennings for a dunk to put Clemson up 27-18 with 5:55 to go.
Demontez Stitt hit a three from the corner to make it 30-18.
The Tigers played the final four minutes of the half without Devin Booker and Jerai Grant who were both on the bench with two fouls.
Baciu hit a jumper with 3:26 to give Clemson a 33-22 lead. Tanner Smith hit a three with 2:03 to stretch the lead to 36-22. The Heels went on a 6-2 run to end the half to cut the lead to 38-28 at the half.
Demontez Stitt led the Tiger with 10 points at the half. Milton Jennings added eight points and pulled down six rebounds. Baciu scored three points and played six critical minutes in the half.
Clemson shot 55 percent in the first half, including 75 percent from three. The Tigers struggled from the line with only 28 percent. North Carolina shot 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. The Tigers outrebounded the Heels 19-11.
With 17:31 to go Demontez Stitt got the Tigers on the board in the second half with a three point play the old fashioned way to make it 41-30. John Hinson followed with a three point play to cut the lead to eight.
After North Carolina cut the lead to six, Demontez Stitt hit a jumper and Milton Jenning scored inside to put the Tigers up 45-35.
North Carolina went on an 8-2 run to cut the lead to four. Milton Jennings scored a three-point play to put the Tigers up 50-43. The Heels went on another run to cut the lead to three at 52-49.
Tanner Smith hit a three to put the Tigers up 72-66. Demontez Stitt hit a free throws with 3:54 to go to stretch the lead to 73-66. The Tigers wouldn’t score again in regulation.
North Carolina went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 73-71 with 1:22 to go. Zeller hit a shot with 32 seconds to go to tie the game at 73. Clemson held for the final shot, but Demontez Stitt missed to send the game to overtime.
Barnes hit a three to start the overtime to put Carolina up 76-73. North Carolina followed with another three to go up six with 3:20 remaining in overtime.
The Tigers scored their first points in overtime at the 2:07 mark in overtime when Tanner Smith hit a layup. Those were the first Clemson points in just under six minutes going back to regulation.
The Tigers hit several 3s down the stretch in overtime, but couldn’t get closer than three.
Clemson fell to 21-11 with the loss. The Tigers will learn their NCAA tourney destination on Sunday.