After having their NCAA tournament aspirations extinguished in Blacksburg, VA, the Tigers returned home for senior day against Georgia Tech. Following the loss to the Hokies, the Tigers entered the game 15-14 (9-10). A win would allow them to end the regular season above .500 overall and at .500 in conference play. A loss however would put even a berth in the NIT in question. Teams don’t technically have to be .500 to qualify, but practically speaking they generally do. A loss would also make it back-to-back losses and put the Tigers in a spot where the year could end with three straight losses if they were to lose in the first round of the ACC Tournament and miss the NIT.
With that backdrop, the Tigers got off to an awful start. They were 0-9 from the field and quickly trailed 9-2. Thanks to nine first half points each from Tevin Mack and Curran Scott, the Tigers stormed back to take a five point lead (22-17) at the nine-minute mark. From there they went cold and were outscored 22-11 by Georgia Tech and went into the half trailing 39-28.
Georgia Tech had blown 11-point halftime leads to Syracuse and Louisville earlier this season. They’d let another slip away. The Yellow Jackets didn’t score a field goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Slowly but surely, the Tigers erased the 11-point deficit and grabbed a four point lead with 10 minutes to go.
The Tigers would build that lead up to nine (59-50) with 5:12 remaining, but then things began to go awry. Three straight missed three-pointers allowed Georgia Tech to get back within three points. The Yellow Jackets’ star point guard Jose Alvarado fouled out, but Michael Devoe and James Banks III picked up the slack. A Banks tip-in would eventually tie the game at 62. Later, a floater by Devoe would give them the lead, 64-62.
With 11.7 seconds remaining, Clemson got the ball to Tevin Mack. He dribbled around the outside, waved off any help or picks, and chucked it up. It missed. The Tigers would foul immediately and get fortunate in that Banks III missed the second attempt. Now trailing 65-62, they called a timeout and drew up a play. This one successfully yielded a decent three-pointer following a challenging cross-court inbound-pass. It was Mack again, a .285 3-point shooter, who got the look. It missed as time expired.
Tigers had come all the way back from an 11-point halftime deficit only to lose 65-62. Clemson finishes the regular season at 15-15 (9-11) and will hope to win one or two games in the ACC tournament to make the NIT and end the season on a positive note.