By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
The instruction was not to let NC State’s best shooter, Scott Wood, get an open look. Unfortunately for Clemson, that’s exactly what happened.
Wood, who had made just two of eight three-pointers prior to that, drained one from the right corner to lift the Wolfpack to a come-from-behind, 58-57, victory over Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum Sunday.
NC State (17-7, 6-5 ACC) had Tyler Lewis inbound the ball to point guard Lorenzo Brown with 7.5 seconds to play. Wood started the play in the right corner, moved down the baseline and then popped back to the right corner thanks to a solid screen set by C.J. Leslie on Rod Hall.
With the ball in his hand, Brown dribbled to his left then cut back right. Understanding where the clock was at, the junior patiently waited for Wood to come free off the Leslie screen. Wood came off the screen wide open, caught the ball and then delivered the game-winner.
“Running a play for Scott Wood to make a three is like running a play for someone to try and get a layup sometimes,” NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said. “It’s about the same percentage. He is that good. I was completely comfortable going to him and going for the jugular.”
In the huddle prior to the timeout, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell instructed his players not to let State get off a three-pointer and to do what they could not to give Wood a good look at the basket if he did get off a shot.
“We knew they probably would go to Wood,” Brownell said. “Try to play on the outside shoulder of him and be right in his number on every catch. If they don’t do that, then they would have probably hit Leslie at the top of the key and do a drive iso. We are not helping so if he scored, we are playing overtime.”
The Wolfpack tried to set up the same play for Wood following a shot clock violation from Clemson with 45.2 seconds to play, but Leslie was called for a travel before they could run the set. That led to a Hall layup with 19.3 seconds to put the Tigers up 57-53.
But Leslie got an opportunity to make up for his mistake when Brown, who returned after missing the last two games with a left ankle injury, made two free throws with 14 seconds to play and then Clemson’s Milton Jennings missed the front end of a one-and-one to set up Wood’s game winning three.
“They executed that final play about as well as you possibly can,” Gottfried said. “Obviously, you still have to make the shot at the end of that. It was an unbelievably huge shot by Scott Wood, but it took all of them together to make that play.”
Clemson (12-11, 4-7 ACC) had its chances to make plays at the end, but it was unable to. The Tigers led by as many as 12 points at one point, but 17 turnovers and a seven minute and 50 second stretch without a field goal allowed the Wolfpack to crawl back into the game.
Clemson had 10 turnovers in the second half, including four straight possessions at one point.
“We turned the ball over too much and unfortunately did not make a late free throw and missed a layup late that could have sealed it,” Brownell said. “But NC State hit a big shot and won.”
Wood’s three was only the third lead of the game for NC State. It led 3-0 with 19:37 to play in the first half before fighting off a 12-point deficit and rallying to take a 45-44 lead with 9:21 left. The last was Wood’s game-winner with one second left.
“A loss like this is hard on any team,” Brownell said. “To lead the game for most of the game and then walk away in the last second as a loser, it’s a tough day.”
What makes it tougher was the fact the Tigers wasted a 17-point career-day from freshman Jordan Roper, who made his fifth start of the season. He also had a career-high three steals and had two assists.
“I played pretty well, but I always want to come out with a win whether I play well or not,” Roper said.
Clemson will try to get that win on Thursday as it heads to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. That game is set for a 7 p.m. start.