A jaw-dropping 48-19 run over the final 26 minutes in regulation propelled Clemson to a 60-50 victory over NC State in the largest come-from-behind victory over an ACC opponent by the Tigers in Littlejohn history.
NC State played an old school, Bobby Knight, Indiana style defense in the first half that gave Clemson fits for 14 minutes. They played a match up zone with nobody stepping outside the perimeter, and the low post defenders switched every time a cut was made. Each time Clemson ran a high screen and roll the NC State center would stay on the point guard, forcing turnover after turnover.
NC State led 31-12 at the 6:10 mark in the 1st half when Brad Brownell called a timeout, and apparently solved the rubics cube. Clemson finished the first half on a 17-3 run, with a Bryan Narcisse steal and monster dunk with 20 seconds left serving as the exclamation point. Halftime score NC State 34 Clemson 29.
The second half opened with NC State extending their lead to 9, but Clemson continued to hang around. The Wolfpack led 48-43 with 7:59 remaining when the Tigers suddenly pounced, and pounced hard.
A spree of offensive rebounds and putbacks brought Clemson to within one, and then Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt completed back to back old-fashioned 3 point plays to put the Tigers up 53-48 at the under five minute timeout. Littlejohn erupted, and the Wolfpack lost any chance of leaving with a W. Clemson finished the game on a 17-2 run.
Experience and leadership were key in the comeback as Stitt led the Tigers with 17 points, 7 boards and 4 assists and Grant posted 14 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks. Bryan Narcisse’s stats were a modest 9 points and 5 boards, but the energy he brought on defense was gold. Injured Tanner Smith was the loudest cheerleader in Littlejohn, screaming and shaking a towel throughout the contest.
The Tigers closed each half on a combined 34-5 run. They were punched in the mouth to open the game, but finished with pure dominance. Clemson fans have witnessed the Tigers blow large leads over the past few seasons, even at home. Tonight they felt the jubilation of mounting the largest comeback in Littlejohn history during an ACC game.
Clemson is now 14-6 overall with a 3-3 mark in the ACC. The Tigers return to the court Saturday at noon as they welcome Florida State into Littlejohn for a rematch. NC State dropped to 12-8 overall and 2-4 in conference play. They play next at UNC Saturday at 2:00.