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Tigers fall to Wolfpack in final seconds

Caitlyn Tai
Clemson guard Joseph Girard III led the way for the Tigers, scoring a team-high 23 points against the Wolfpack.

The Clemson men’s basketball team fell to ACC rival NC State in the final seconds on Saturday night, losing 78-77 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

Following a three-game ACC win streak, their longest of the new year, the Tigers fell in yet another tightly fought conference duel.

The contest ended in the final 10 seconds of play when, down by one, NC State guard DJ Horne drove into the paint and scored a contested jumper to take the lead with nine seconds on the clock. Clemson guard Chase Hunter quickly took the ball and drove into the paint in the final seconds but missed what would have potentially been the game-winning shot, giving NC State the victory.

The Wolfpack held the lead throughout most of the first half, though Joseph Girard III led a Clemson comeback and helped propel the Tigers to a 12-point lead with just over 10 minutes left in the second half.

Seven minutes later, however, the score was evened out at 71 apiece after Horne and the Wolfpack went on a 22-10 run. Down by two with 31 seconds left in the game, NC State forward Mohamed Diarra forced a turnover from Girard, who fouled Diarra while scrambling for the ball, resulting in free throw opportunities. Diarra made his first shot and missed the second attempt, but the ball bounced off of PJ Hall’s hands, forcing a jump ball and giving Horne the opportunity to make the game-winning basket.

Horne, a top-10 scorer in the ACC, had a massive night against the Tigers, amassing 27 points. The Tigers also struggled to contain NC State forward DJ Burns Jr., who bullied his way to 14 points.

On the other side of the ball, Girard scored 23 points for the Tigers, nailing four out of seven 3-point shots. Hall got the job done as well, scoring 18 points and recording seven rebounds.

Overall, the stat sheets for both teams were similar. However, in the first half, NC State attempted 12 free throws to Clemson’s one. Additionally, the Tigers’ 11 turnovers compared to the Wolfpacks’ seven made it difficult to find a consistent offensive rhythm.

When asked about the free throw differential and any halftime adjustments, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell confirmed their adapted game plan.

“Obviously, we talked about that during halftime,” he said. “We just didn’t feel like we were as aggressive as we needed to be. We were a step behind for a while in the game. I felt like we were a half-step late on some things. We just have to be better as a group.”

Up next for Clemson is a road trip to Georgia Tech, another ACC rival, on Wednesday. The last time these teams met, the Tigers fell in double-overtime at home. Given the past result, Hall had a simple response when asked about the locker room mentality for the upcoming game.

“We will be ready,” he said.

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Caitlyn Tai, Senior Photographer
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