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The Tiger

Clemson good, but not good enough against Tar Heels

Alex Kelly, Asst. Sports Editor
Sophomore guard Clyde Trapp scored 15 points against the No. 5 Tar Heels.

The Clemson Tigers men’s basketball team suffered a 81-79 defeat to the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday night in front of their home crowd. In what was a solid all around performance from the Tigers, they were simply unable to make enough plays to edge the talented Tar Heels. Unfortunately for the Tigers, this good, but not good enough trend has haunted them all season. Whether it be buzzer beater losses to N.C. State and Miami, or a rejected last-second layup against Louisville, the Tigers have failed to make plays in the final seconds all season long. Saturday night was no different. Down by two points with 9.1 seconds remaining in the game, Shelton Mitchell rebounded the ball off a missed UNC free throw. Trying to take the ball all the way down the court, Mitchell ran into a wall of defenders before he had a chance to take a shot.

While the Tigers played one of their best games of the season against the Tar Heels, their successes will likely be overshadowed by the disaster that was the last 9.1 seconds of the game. Blame can be placed on head coach Brad Brownell for not using his timeout once Mitchell rebounded the ball. He had another chance to take a timeout after Mitchell’s drive failed and Clemson recovered the ball with just over two seconds remaining. Mitchell deserves to shoulder some of the blame as well. It was clear from the beginning that his drive was going to be unsuccessful. He could have attempted to move the ball to an open player. Regardless, there are no excuses for the inability to get a competitive shot up with nearly ten seconds to work with. Even worse, the Tigers’ best player, Marquise Reed, who had already tallied 24 points on the night, didn’t even touch the ball on the possession.

There is no denying the talent of this Clemson team. They have shown all season long that they can be competitive with the best teams in the country. On Saturday night, they battled with the No. 5 Tar Heels shot for shot. The Tigers received contributions from numerous players all night long and constantly gave UNC problems with their different personnel. While the stats from players like Clyde Trapp, Aamir Simms and Javan White don’t jump off the score sheet, the young Tiger role players found ways to contribute all night long. That combined with the 49 combined points scored by veterans Reed, Elijah Thomas and Mitchell allowed the Tigers to make plays offensively all night long.

The problem for the Tigers is that all they’ve been able to do is be competitive with top teams like UNC. Aside from a win over Virginia Tech, the Tigers have not been able to beat another ranked team all season long. As a result, the Tigers lack a true signature win capable of propelling them off the NCAA tournament bubble. While the season is certainly not lost for the Tigers, they will have to change the trend if they want to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. They have games against Notre Dame and Syracuse remaining on their regular season schedule before the ACC tournament begins. They will likely need to win their final two regular season games and gain a signature win or two in the ACC tournament if they want to be considered for the NCAA tournament. If they fail to do so, the Tigers may once again be good, but not good enough.

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