Clemson’s NCAA Tournament dreams take hit after blowing an 18-point lead in loss to NC State
CHARLOTTE — Clemson’s path to the NCAA Tournament looked clear after it build a 16-point halftime lead Wednesday against NC State. The Tigers were in control of the game and making just about everything they threw up.
But somehow with 2.6 seconds to play in the game State’s Markell Johnson was at the line shooting two free throws to win the game. Johnson did just that as the Wolfpack rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Clemson, 59-58, in Day 2 of the ACC Tournament from the Spectrum in Charlotte.
Marcquise Reed’s heave from just past the half-court line bounced off the top of the scoreboard to end the game, leaving Clemson stunned.
After leading 42-26 at the break. The Tigers scored just 16 points in the second half.
The loss muddies up Clemson’s NCAA Tournament hopes as now the selection committee will determine the Tigers’ postseason plans on Sunday.
“That is all we can do at this point,” Reed said.
Clemson (19-13) is now 20-69 all-time in ACC Tournament games. Wednesday marked the second time this year the Tigers lost in the final seconds to NC State. It lost by two points in Raleigh, N.C., on Jan. 26, on a last second shot.
This last second loss might have hurt the worst for Clemson. With the Tigers leading by one point, 58-57, it appeared Clyde Trapp did a good job defending the ball and had Johnson off-balance as he missed his shot. But the officials saw it differently and Trapp was called for a foul with 2.6 seconds to play.
After the game, Trapp had no comment about the call. Head coach Brad Brownell said he was disappointed with the way the game ended.
“Just thought it was tough, tough play for us,” he said. “Very disappointed with the way the game ended.”
The Tigers have now lost six games this year by two points or less and has just one win in those situations.
“The game is over with now,” Reed said. “We just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday.”
Clemson opened the game by hitting seven of its first eight shots from behind the arc as it built an 18-point lead, 36-18, with 7:37 to play in the first half.
The Tigers finished the half 8 of 13 from behind the arc. They shot 52 percent overall from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
Clemson used a 12-2 run at first to take a 20-8 lead, thanks to a couple of threes from David Skara and Reed. Then Aamir Simms made back-to-back three-pointers to extend the lead to 18 with 7:37 to play.
After NC State cut the lead to 10 points on an 8-0, the Tigers scored the last six points of the half to take a 42-26 lead into the locker room. Shelton Mitchell made a three and Javan White got a dunk on the mini-run to close the half.
The second half was the exact opposite of the first half. The Tigers came out cold, while NC State made 8 of their first 12 shots to cut the Clemson lead to 51-47 after Jericole Hellems hit a triple from the top of the key with 11:50 to play in the game.
With Clemson struggling from the field, State cut the lead to two points, 53-51, with 6:31 to play when Derrick Funderburk drove the lane for a layup.
The Tigers at one point missed 14 straight shots in the second half.
NC State took its first lead since 4-3 in the first half when Johnson nailed a three-pointer with 5:38 to play in the game. That gave State a 54-53 lead at the time.
Reed ended a 20-2 run by State with a three from the top of the key that cut the Wolfpack lead to one, 57-56, with 3:56 to play. Thomas then put Clemson back in front with a putback after a Reed miss with 3:44 to go. Those were the last points of the game for the Tigers.