Panthers 83, Tigers 78: 'This one hurts because we had it'

Pitt's unlikely, final-seconds rally sets the stage for victory in OT that clinches No. 5 ACC tourney seed

Clemson's K.J. McDaniels and Pittsburgh's Jamel Artis compete for a loose ball in the first half.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson's K.J. McDaniels and Pittsburgh's Jamel Artis compete for a loose ball in the first half.

"This one hurt," said Clemson coach Brad Brownell, "because we had it."

Pittsburgh rallied from a five-point deficit in the final 13 seconds and then steamrolled the Tigers in overtime for an 83-78 victory Saturday that earned the Panthers the No. 5 seed in the ACC tournament and denied Clemson its 20th win overall and a record 11th victory in league play.

Urged on by a raucous packed house at Littlejohn Coliseum, the Tigers rode a strong first-half effort to a 36-29 lead, and then, after turning back a Panther rally, appeared to have victory in hand, leading 67-62 after a pair of free throws by Jaron Blossomgame with 12.9 seconds remaining.

After advancing the ball into the frontcourt, the Panthers gave themselves a chance by popping in a quick three-pointer off an inbounds play, leaving Clemson with 2.4 seconds to inbound the ball and seal the victory.

What followed was a worst-case scenario for the Tigers.

Contested closely by two Panthers, K.J. McDaniels lost the handle on the inbounds catch, and the ball bounced straight into the hands of Pitt's Josh Newkirk, who elevated and swished a 12-footer just as time expired.

The basket was ruled good on the floor by the officials, who then spent several long, tense minutes reviewing the play to see if Newkirk had beaten the buzzer. Finally, they called the coaches to the scorer's table, confirmed the basket, and sent the game into overtime.

It was Newkirk's only basket of the game.

Different video angles, the visible shot clock and the light on top of the backboard seemed to offer contradictory evidence, but in the end, the referees agreed that there wasn't sufficient reason to overturn the on-floor decision.

"They didn't tell me anything except that the basket was going to count," Brownell said.

The loss brought a disappointing finish to Clemson's strong stretch run, and will send the Tigers, 19-11 overall and 10-8 in the ACC, into their second-round ACC tournament game as either the sixth or seventh seed, depending on results of games Saturday night and Sunday.

Pittsburgh improved to 23-8 overall and 11-7 in the league.

"Boy, it hurts," said Brownell. "It hurts because we played well enough to win...and because we had it. When you do this long enough, I guess everything eventually happens - but this is a first...I need to watch the inbounds to see why we couldn't get it in. We just needed to make the play, get fouled, and the game was over.

"I'm extremely proud of our guys for the way they played. But we wanted to send the fans out with a smile to enjoy the rest of their day."

After the end-of-regular sequence, the Tigers appeared stunned on the bench as they prepared for overtime. And they played that way as the extra period began.

Pittsburgh reeled off seven unanswered points to open the overtime period, and led 81-74 after Cameron Wright hit a pair of free throws with 29 seconds remaining.

The Tigers narrowed the margin with two free throws by Rod Hall, and then capitalized on an errant inbounds play by the Panthers for a Hall three-pointer that cut the lead to three, 81-78, with 18 second left.

But then an ill-advised backcourt foul by freshman Austin Ajukwa sent Wright back to the free throw line, and he made a pair to wrap up Pittsburgh's victory.

After a shaky start - five turnovers in their first seven possessions - the Tigers settled in for the rest of the first half and played some of their best offensive basketball of the season.

Pitt led 17-13 at the first media timeout, and at that point Clemson had six baskets and six turnovers. The Tigers then outscored the Panthers 10-2 over the next four minutes, took the lead with back-to-back threes by Jordan Roper and McDaniels, and added another by Ajukwa for a 23-19 edge at the next break.

The Tigers extended their run to 19-4 and grabbed their largest lead at 32-21 after a steal and dunk by Ajukwa and a three-pointer by Blossomgame off a pass from Hall.

Clemson finished the half with a 38-29 advantage, after shooting 58 percent from the floor.

Lamar Patterson led Pitt with a career-high 30 points, while McDaniels paced the Tigers with 24. Blossomgame added 14 points and six rebounds, while Hall and Jordan Roper finished with 12.

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Comments » 10

michtiger writes:

Many years ago at Littlejohn I saw Clemson loose with a 5 pt lead with 15 sec left and possession under our basket against Va. Our first two inbounds were picked off and put pack. The third ball was inbounded but turned over for a 1 point lost. I thought this was the most gut wrenching loss I had ever see. On so many levels the lost Sat was with out any ability to explain. With a dead clock at six sec. Blossomgame hit 2 FTs to move to 5 pts. We let then get off a 3 pointer they hit in 3.6 sec. with 2.4 sec we try to force pass under our own bucket. With 6 and 2 possession lead why were there not impeded on the advance so any shot would kill clock? Why wasn't the inbound not throw over the top to kill the clock? This has been a fun season but not sure this team can handle this next week. Here is next week: you do not need to take your socks off to count first round wins: Looks like we will play GT ( maybe wF or ND ), we barely beat them at home because they had two starters out, in second game we made a good comeback, they have their better guys not only playing but they are back in shape, they are winning some games and in sports beating a team three times is hard. not sure we have recovery from this gut hit in us. Good news we are really shown ours critics wrong this year. hopefully thur we win and at least 1 NIT game at home.

SoCalTiger writes:

in response to michtiger:

Many years ago at Littlejohn I saw Clemson loose with a 5 pt lead with 15 sec left and possession under our basket against Va. Our first two inbounds were picked off and put pack. The third ball was inbounded but turned over for a 1 point lost. I thought this was the most gut wrenching loss I had ever see. On so many levels the lost Sat was with out any ability to explain. With a dead clock at six sec. Blossomgame hit 2 FTs to move to 5 pts. We let then get off a 3 pointer they hit in 3.6 sec. with 2.4 sec we try to force pass under our own bucket. With 6 and 2 possession lead why were there not impeded on the advance so any shot would kill clock? Why wasn't the inbound not throw over the top to kill the clock? This has been a fun season but not sure this team can handle this next week. Here is next week: you do not need to take your socks off to count first round wins: Looks like we will play GT ( maybe wF or ND ), we barely beat them at home because they had two starters out, in second game we made a good comeback, they have their better guys not only playing but they are back in shape, they are winning some games and in sports beating a team three times is hard. not sure we have recovery from this gut hit in us. Good news we are really shown ours critics wrong this year. hopefully thur we win and at least 1 NIT game at home.

Please tell me that you did not graduate from Clemson.

waran writes:

in response to michtiger:

Many years ago at Littlejohn I saw Clemson loose with a 5 pt lead with 15 sec left and possession under our basket against Va. Our first two inbounds were picked off and put pack. The third ball was inbounded but turned over for a 1 point lost. I thought this was the most gut wrenching loss I had ever see. On so many levels the lost Sat was with out any ability to explain. With a dead clock at six sec. Blossomgame hit 2 FTs to move to 5 pts. We let then get off a 3 pointer they hit in 3.6 sec. with 2.4 sec we try to force pass under our own bucket. With 6 and 2 possession lead why were there not impeded on the advance so any shot would kill clock? Why wasn't the inbound not throw over the top to kill the clock? This has been a fun season but not sure this team can handle this next week. Here is next week: you do not need to take your socks off to count first round wins: Looks like we will play GT ( maybe wF or ND ), we barely beat them at home because they had two starters out, in second game we made a good comeback, they have their better guys not only playing but they are back in shape, they are winning some games and in sports beating a team three times is hard. not sure we have recovery from this gut hit in us. Good news we are really shown ours critics wrong this year. hopefully thur we win and at least 1 NIT game at home.

Yes, please tell me you did not study at Clemson, or I am sending my son somewhere else.

KIMOSAMI (Inactive) writes:

What a tough loss.

I think Brownell has done a good job this year. Hated to lose Oliver Purnell, but Brownell's done reasonably well.

Aside....just getting over the nausea I suffer every time I have to listen to Dave Odom(former Gamecock coach whose voice is disgustingly similar to Tommy Suggs). He saw the ball out of the shooter's hand at the end...even though it was obviously still on his fingertips.
Can't really dispute the call, however....given the shot clock disparity and the fact of the call on the court.

Tough one that got away.

Bigboots writes:

On the final inbounds play, why not throw the longball 3/4 of the way down the court?.
If we catch it----game over. If they get it, they have at least a half court shot to tie.
Seemed like a poor strategy the way it was played. Shame to see a good effort go down the drain.

wrmurray_65#290092 writes:

One of the poorest last second coaching I've seen in 40+ years of watching. Coaching took away a sure victory from our boys. They played so hard and our coach failed them by not instructing them to simply throw the ball down court. Sad, very sad; it's just poor coaching.

michtiger writes:

in response to SoCalTiger:

Please tell me that you did not graduate from Clemson.

My bad. When I glanced at the play by play and caught the number on the sheet ( 6 sec ) after their missed shot not at FT line. Probably still had by stomach in my throat! I did witness the Va game. Woke up thinking about the statement on time and knowing I had something wrong. Sorry

michtiger writes:

in response to waran:

Yes, please tell me you did not study at Clemson, or I am sending my son somewhere else.

Yes you caught my goof also!!

TheTruth46 writes:

in response to KIMOSAMI:

What a tough loss.

I think Brownell has done a good job this year. Hated to lose Oliver Purnell, but Brownell's done reasonably well.

Aside....just getting over the nausea I suffer every time I have to listen to Dave Odom(former Gamecock coach whose voice is disgustingly similar to Tommy Suggs). He saw the ball out of the shooter's hand at the end...even though it was obviously still on his fingertips.
Can't really dispute the call, however....given the shot clock disparity and the fact of the call on the court.

Tough one that got away.

Do you find Tommy Sugg's voice disgusting and nauseating because he beat Clemmons everytime he played you? He started 3 games against Clemmons, 1968,1969, and 1970...beat ya everytime. I suppose I might find him disgusting as well. You may keep Dave Odom.

Bigboots writes:

Who knew?
He just sounds like a bumpkin. Pair him with Ellis and you have a whining bumpkin combo.

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