Clemson basketball reverses last-second woes, beats N.C. State 78-74
CLEMSON — It felt like deja vu.
Back and forth Clemson and N.C. State went on Wednesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum, trading leads 10 times and tying the game eight times. In a season that has been defined by close losses in the final minutes — often times the final seconds — at times, Wednesday felt no different.
But this time it was. Clemson came out on the winning side of this showdown, at last flipping the script following final-moment losses to UNC (3 points), Notre Dame (5), Virginia (4), Syraucse (1), Duke (2), Virginia Tech twice (1) and most recently, Florida State (2). The Tigers beat N.C. State 78-74 in Mark Gottfried’s final regular season game of his N.C. State coaching career, Brad Brownell the most relieved person in the building when Dennis Smith’s potentially game-winning 3-pointer airballed with three seconds remaining.
“Proud and really happy for my guys. We finally gutted one out and made a couple plays down the stretch,” Brownell said in his opening statement. “We finally got a couple of stops when we really needed them ... I thought we executed well down the stretch.”
Clemson rode Shelton Mitchell’s hot hand in the first half, as the guard drained two of three 3-pointers and scored 10 of the Tigers’ first 12 points to open the game. While forward Donte Grantham and leading scorer Jaron Blossomgame were held scoreless at the break, Mitchell provided a spark and kept the Tigers afloat at halftime, when they trailed 38-37.
Blossomgame found his way in the second half, breaking his scoring drought about 50 seconds in and exploding for 16 points to tie Mitchell for Clemson’s best performance.
The forward drained a 3-pointer with 1:27 left in the game to hand Clemson a 75-72 lead, and then sunk a pair of free throws with two seconds remaining to officially seal the four-point win and reverse Clemson’s last-second woes.
“Certain games it’s easier to get him the ball than others. They did a really good job on him. The size bothered him for a while,” Brownell said. “But he was really good and you don’t expect him to not play well. When he’s 0-for-5 or whatever he was at halftime, you feel like he’s got five coming. He knows we believe in him and he’s our guy.”
Now the Tigers have one final test ahead of them in the regular season as Boston College travels to Littlejohn on Saturday for Senior Day. Tip is set for 4 p.m., originally changed from a 2 p.m. start time. Blossomgame, Clemson’s unquestionable star, knows the memories will flood out when he takes the floor one final time.
“I’m going to be very very emotional. Very, very emotional,” he said. “All week really, just watching the games on TV and seeing some of the other seniors in the country have their Senior Night — for me to know my last game in Littlejohn is coming up, it’s really emotional.”