CLEMSON – Just three days after losing a game they let get away early, the Clemson Tigers lost a game they gave away late.
North Carolina State’s Scott Wood, who opened the contest with a 3-pointer, ended it the same way, draining a three with one tick left on the clock to give North Carolina State a 58-57 victory over Clemson on Sunday at Littlejohn Coliseum.
“Obviously a very painful loss,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought our guys competed well and played well in certain segments. But we turned the ball over too much, missed a late free throw and missed a chance to ice it with a late layup.
“It’s hard to lead most of the game and then walk away a loser. It’s a tough day.”
The Tigers (12-11, 4-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) led by as many as 12 points and seemed poised to wipe away at least some of the stain from Thursday’s 78-41 beatdown by Virginia, a game the Cavaliers took control of from the outset.
Instead Sunday’s death blow came after the Wolfpack (17-7, 6-5) had led only once in the second half - until the final bucket.
“The last offensive play, Lorenzo (Brown), Richard (Howell) and Scott executed as well as you can,” said N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried, whose team snapped a three-game game losing streak. “You still have to make the shot, and Scott did, but it took all of them together to make that play.
“Running a play for Scott Wood to get a three is like running a play for somebody else to get a layup - he’s that good. We decided at the end to go for the jugular.”
The loss overshadowed a breakout performance by Tiger freshman guard Jordan Roper, who had a career-high 17 points and played outstanding defense, recording three steals. He also scored the first 10 of the second half for the Tigers, firing up the home portion of the 9,455 fans
But there was no reason to celebrate.
“I played pretty well but we also lost the game,” Roper said. “And every loss hurts, whether it’s a loss like we had at Virginia or a close one like today.”
K.J. McDaniels added 12 points for Clemson and Devin Booker contributed 10 points.
Howell paced State with 16 points, Brown had 15 and C.J. Leslie netted 12.
Wood’s had nine – all from behind the arc and none bigger than the last.
The Wolfpack won the rebounding battle 41-36 but also forced 17 Tiger turnovers while committing 12.
Clemson and State played mostly even in the second half, although the ‘Pack got its first lead since Scott’s 3-pointer 19 seconds after the opening tip when Howell converted a layup with 9:21 to go to make it 45-44.
Still the Tigers got the lead back quickly and were up by four with just 19 seconds left in regulation.
But Brown hit two free throws to close the gap to 57-55 and Milton Jennings missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12 seconds showing on the scoreboard.
A rebound by N.C. State and timeout with seven seconds remaining allowed the visitors to set up the winning shot, and Scott made it.
“I told the guys in the huddle, 'No three,’” Brownell said. “I told them they’d probably go to Wood,”
Damarcus Harrison took a long throw-in from Rod Hall and heaved a shot at the buzzer from halfcourt, but the ball was off the mark and the Tigers were suddenly owners of a three game losing skid.
It was also their first home setback since a Jan. 5 loss to Florida State.
Following Wood’s opening salvo Clemson quickly took charge, getting 3-pointers from Milton Jennings and Roper but also having success on the inside.
When Roper scored off a steal at 11:26 to make it a 16-7 game, Gottfried called timeout to try to stop the bleeding.
It didn’t work – at least not immediately.
The Wolfpack continued to misfire while the Tigers continued to hit, and the visitors were doubled up at 24-12 with 6:12 remaining in the first half.
State finally made some headway in the waning moments of the period but after 20 minutes Clemson was still on top, 32-26.
The lead slowly dwindled – and was lost completely after 39 minutes and 59 seconds had been played.