Story by Matt Smith
Clemson’s place in the NCAA Tournament has been a topic of debate across the Southeast over the last few weeks. The Tigers (19-13) did nothing to help their case Wednesday at the ACC Tournament. NC State erased an 18-point deficit and ruined the Tigers’ stay in Charlotte, 59-58.
Clemson came out firing, hitting 7 of its first 8 3-pointers. Marcquise Reed led the barrage, knocking down his first three attempts from behind the arc, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. NC State was able to trim the lead to 10 while Clemson suffered through a four-minute scoring drought. Reed answered the bell, again, this time with a bounce pass leading to a Javan White slam.
Reed, seven fast break points and 61% shooting from the 3-point line added up to a 42-26 halftime advantage. On the other hand, NC State opened ice cold, hitting just 1 of its first 11 shots from deep. The roles reversed in the second half as the Wolfpack outscored the Tigers 33-16 over the final 20 minutes and completed the ACC Tournament’s second-largest comeback.
The NC State rally began with the combination of Devon Daniels and Braxton Beverly. Daniels drained a pair of 3-pointers and Beverly hit an up and under lay-in to cut the Tigers lead to four with 11:31 remaining. It looked as though Clemson may turn away the NC State rally when Reed broke the string with a pair of foul shots, but the Pack wouldn’t be denied.
Derek Funderburk posted up for baskets on consecutive trips and trimmed the lead to two with 6:31 left. Moments later, Markell Johnson’s off balance 3-pointer capped the comeback at 54-53. It was NC State’s first lead since the game’s opening exchanges netted a 4-3 advantage. Johnson was the catalyst throughout the second half, finishing with 23 points and 4 assists.
Clemson wrestled the lead back briefly when Elijah Thomas put back Reed’s errant jumper at the 3:44 mark. It was the final field goal Clemson would muster.
With Clemson clinging to a 58-57 lead, the game-deciding possession would stretch on for nearly a minute. The Tigers reset State’s shot clock twice with fouls before Johnson drew a two-shot foul with 2.6 seconds left. Johnson calmly buried both free throws before Reed’s half-court heave went wide at the buzzer.
NC State moves on to face Virginia tomorrow and Clemson will await its postseason destination.
FINAL CLEMSON STATS:
Brad Brownell postgame:
Elijah Thomas talks with the media after the game