About a tenth of a second came between Clemson and both a marquee win against Pittsburgh and a top-five seed in the ACC Tournament Saturday.
Sunday, they found out just how far Josh Newkirk’s late-game-of-late-game shots-to-overtime loss dropped them – just one spot, to a six-seed. Clemson (19-11, 10-8 ACC) will await the winner of Wednesday’s matchup in Greensboro, N.C. between 11-seed Georgia Tech (15-16, 6-12) and 14-seed Boston College (8-23, 4-14) for a game after 9 p.m. on Thursday.
The Tigers were picked 14th preseason by the ACC media.
They swept their games with the Eagles and Yellow Jackets, taking a home-and-home with Tech (63-55 on the road; 45-41 at home) and won at BC to open the season (62-60). If the Tigers advance, they will take on 3-seed Duke (24-7, 13-5), who they beat by 13 in Littlejohn Coliseum in January.
On Saturday, Clemson led Pitt by nine at the half, shooting 58 percent, and led by as much as 10 in the second session.
Clemson held a five-point edge with 13 seconds left after a pair of Jaron Blossomgame free throws, but a Lamar Patterson three-pointer put the Panthers in position for a stunning late-game scenario.
As time ticked on the five-second count, Clemson’s Damarcus Harrison forced a desperation pass in his own end that was stolen and turned into the game-tying basket.
The Panthers scored the first seven points of overtime and the Tigers never recovered.
“Obviously it will be with me for a while,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “It’s disappointing because we played well enough to win. Guys made good plays. We had a lot of guys play well today, but that is going to be overshadowed because of the way we played the last 15 seconds.
“That is hard to get over, but we’ve got (Saturday night) to feel sorry for ourselves and then we need to wake up (Sunday) and try to get ready for the ACC Tournament.”
Four Tigers were in double-figures, including a 12th game of 20 or more points for All-ACC candidate K.J. McDaniels (24 points).
After going scoreless the previous two games, sophomore guard Jordan Roper knocked down three from the perimeter for 12 points. Blossomgame added 14 points and six boards, while junior guard Rod Hall scored 12 and dished six assists.
“There were definitely a lot of positives out of this one and the past two games,” Blossomgame said. “We just have to keep our heads up. It’s a tough loss, but we have an opportunity to do something great next week at the ACC Tournament.”
Clemson hasn’t won an ACC Tournament game since 2011, 70-47 against Boston College, before a five-point loss in overtime to No. 6 North Carolina in the quarterfinals.
The Tigers have won two ACC Tourney games in a row just twice in their history (1962 and 2008).