For just over 36 minutes Saturday afternoon, Clemson played a great offensive and defensive game against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semi finals. But the Tigers could not extend that to the end and the result was a 92-87 overtime loss to the top seeded Tar Heels. The Tigers are now 0-6 all time in ACC Tournament overtime games. And they are 1-15 all time against the Tar Heels in the tournament.
The Tigers led 73-66 with 3:54 to play and had the ball. The Tigers started to run some time off the clock and it seem to take them out of sync. They missed their final three shots and had three turnovers. That opened the door for the Tar Heels who rallied from 19 down on Friday to beat Miami.
A John Henson layup cut the deficit to five. Harrison Barnes, who scored a freshman ACC Tournament record 40 points, nailed a three to make it 73-71. And with :29 to play, Tyler Zeller dropped thru a jump hook to tie the game.
Clemson had the chance to win at the end of regulation. Brad Brownell decided not use one of his remaining three timeouts and let Demontez Stitt work for the final shot. Stitt pulled up from the right side about 18 feet out for a fall away jumper but it was an air ball.
With the crowd and momentum on its side, North Carolina jumped out quickly in overtime. The Tar Heels scored the first nine points to cap a 16-0 run and take an 82-73 lead. But the Tigers would not go away and they got to within three with :11 left on a three pointer by Andre Young. That’s as close as the Tigers would get as Barnes closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws.
Clemson played spectacular basketball in the first half and led most of the way by double digits. The Tigers were up 10 at halftime after shooting 56% over the first 20 minutes. They continued to lead until a layup by Zeller made it 53-52 Tar Heels with 10:55 to play. The Tigers responded building an eight point lead and appeared to be on their way to their third appearance in the championship game until things came apart for them at the end.
Stitt led the Tigers with a career high 25 points. Milton Jennings added 16. The Tigers were outscored from the line 34-16. But of more concern to the Tigers was the fact they allowed the Tar Heels to shoot 57% n the second half and outrebound them 28-16.
The 87 points scored by Clemson ties the record for the most the Tigers have scored in an ACC Tournament game. And the 45 points Stitt scored in his two games are the third most in Clemson history.
Clemson falls to 21-11 and now must wait on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to announce the field Sunday night to know its fate. Most believe the Tigers will be among the 68 teams announced.
North Carolina improves to 26-6 and will play in the title game Sunday for the 40th time. The Tar Heels own 17 tournament championships.