The Clemson Tigers fell to #5 North Carolina in heartbreaking fashion Saturday night at Littlejohn. The 81-79 loss is Clemson’s fourth one-possession defeat in ACC play this season.
Clemson managed to jump out to an early, albeit slim, lead and the game looked like it would be a high scoring affair. The Tigers were knocking down jumpers, defending well and Coby White was the only player keeping UNC afloat. Then, after a Clyde Trapp three put Clemson up 25-19 with 10:26 left in the first, the offense went silent.
A stretch of sloppy play for both squads took hold over the next five minutes, but UNC eventually pulled ahead, 26-25, with five minutes left in the first. Both teams battled over the next few minutes until the game was stopped following a bout of Vertigo which forced Roy Williams to a knee on the bench, and eventually to the locker room for the remainder of the game.
Coming out of the break down six, Clemson went to work cutting into UNC’s lead. Two Marcquise Reed free throws gave Clemson the lead with 14 minutes left in the half, kicking off a six-minute stretch of back-and-forth play. Reed finished with a team-high 24 points in the game.
The end of the second half played out similarly to the first half, except with UNC holding onto a slim lead rather than Clemson. The game was within reach for the Tigers down the final seconds, but they were never able to put themselves over the top. UNC’s Kenny Williams missed a crucial free throw up two with 10 seconds to play but White iced the game for the Tarheels, coming up with a (potentially-referee-assisted) steal before Clemson could put up their final shot.
Watch the less than satisfying finish.
On an individual level Clyde Trapp, Elijah Thomas and Shelton Mitchell all joined Reed in double figures, scoring 15, 14 and 11, respectively. Thomas also added 11 boards, meaning he had yet another double-double. Trapp started in place of David Skara, who was out with an injury.
Two more games left for the Tigers and they’re firmly on the bubble. A big home win over a Quadrant 1 team would’ve been huge for their Tourney chances but they’ll have to top Notre Dame and Syracuse before entering the ACC Tournament and hopefully making an impact.