By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
The Clemson basketball team has little time to soak over Tuesday’s heartbreaking double overtime loss at Notre Dame.
Though the Tigers do get a three-day break from playing, they have to get over the disappointment of letting a possible road-victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference get away. Seventeenth-ranked Virginia visits Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday at noon and if the Tigers have any plans of making the NCAA Tournament this year they need to win this game.
That will not be easy to do either. Only top-ranked Syracuse is playing better than Virginia right now in the ACC. The Cavaliers have won eight straight games and 11 of their last 12. Guard Joe Harris is one of the top scorers in the ACC and is coming off a 19-point performance against Maryland on Monday night.
Clemson (15-7, 6-5 ACC) might have kept itself out of the must-win situation had it beaten Notre Dame on Tuesday in South Bend, Ind. Clemson had opportunities at the end of regulation and in the first overtime to beat the Irish, but they failed to convert on either one.
Trailing by a point, 54-53, at the end of regulation, Rod Hall had a chance to win the game for the Tigers when he was fouled going down the lane with 4.6 seconds left. But Hall missed the first free throw before making the second one to send the game to overtime tied at 54.
In the first overtime, Clemson overcame a four-point deficit in the final minute when Hall hit a bucket with 10.6 seconds to go and Landry Nnoko stole the ensuing inbounds pass before being fouled with eight seconds to play.
The sophomore center, a 57 percent free throw coming into the game, drained both shots to tie the game at 60.
Notre Dame (13-12, 4-8 ACC) had a chance to win the game but guard Eric Atkins turned the ball over with 1.8 seconds left giving the Tigers a shot to win the game. On the inbounds pass, Notre Dame’s Garrick Sherman knocked the pass out of bounds, placing the basketball near the Irish’s goal with 0.8 seconds to play.
Inbounding from the side, K.J. McDaniels came off a screen wide open at the top of the key, but his potential game-winner hit the back of the rim as time expired, forcing a second overtime. In the second overtime, Notre Dame got two three-pointers from freshman guard Steve Vasturia and when McDaniels’ attempt to try and tie the game with less than 30 seconds to go was not true, the Irish made two free throws to seal the game and send Clemson into wondering what could have been.
With seven games left in the regular season, the Tigers now find themselves with in the uncomfortable position of having to possibly win both of their remaining road games at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest or at least one, and go know worse than 4-1 at home to be considered for the NCAA Tournament.
That would make Clemson 5-2 down the stretch and would lift the Tigers’ record to 20-9 overall and 11-7 in the ACC. But is that asking a lot out of a young basketball team that is coming off a heartbreaking loss and has so much weighing on the line?
Clemson closes its home slate with games against Virginia, NC State, Miami, Maryland and Pittsburgh.