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Paws up, paws down: Tigers collapse against NC State

Caitlyn Tai
The Tigers huddle up on the court to discuss mid-game strategy in their heartbreaking 78-77 loss to NC State on Saturday.

Clemson experienced another heartbreaking loss to a tough NC State team by a close score of 78-77 on Saturday night. The Tigers are now 17-8 (7-7 ACC) and have dropped to the seventh seed in the conference.

Clemson appeared to have the game under control for the majority of the second half, up until the last 10 minutes, when the Wolfpack went on a 22-10 run to help propel a comeback and ultimately come away with the win.

Below are a few takeaways from the Tigers’ disappointing loss to NC State:

Paws down: Lack of first-half physicality

NC State came out of the gate with more physicality than Clemson. In the first half, Clemson shot one free throw, compared to NC State’s 12. This dominance was a big reason why the Wolfpack led the Tigers for the majority of the opening period.

Despite center PJ Hall starting the first half with a hot hand behind the arc, he struggled to get quality looks in the paint as he made three field goals in the first half, allowing NC State to limit Clemson’s leading scorer.

While this allowed other players like RJ Godfrey to step up, the Tigers found it difficult to sustain a rhythm inside the perimeter.

Paws up: Girard’s sharpshooting abilities

Clemson guard Joseph Girard III had a spectacular shooting night and was by far Clemson’s most valuable player throughout the game. Girard put up an impressive stat line, with a team-high 23 points, shooting 7-for-13 from the field and 4-for-7 from deep. He also had a perfect night at the charity stripe, going 5-for-5.

Even more important was the impact some of Girard’s shots had on the game.

With one minute remaining in the first half, NC State was starting to pull away as it built a 39-29 lead. That was until the graduate transfer got the ball in his hands, nailing a big three to cut the lead to 39-32, which helped the Tigers gain momentum and amp up the crowd. The Wolfpack then turned the ball over on their following possession, leading to a 3-pointer by Chase Hunter to close out the half on a 6-0 run.

Girard’s biggest moment of the night was the turnaround-fadeaway jumper he nailed in the final minute of the game. Clemson desperately needed a bucket as NC State had already cut the lead to 75-73, and Girard delivered.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, it was not enough to propel them past the Wolfpack.

Paws down: Another late-game collapse

Clemson played great basketball throughout the second half, up until there were a little over four minutes remaining. After committing six turnovers in the first half, the Tigers cleaned their act up for the majority of the second period.

Once there were four minutes and 30 seconds left in the game, the Tigers committed their first turnover of the half. They started to play sloppy, eventually committing a total of five turnovers in the final four minutes.

In addition to turnovers, Clemson was playing inefficiently down the stretch. The Tigers did not make a single field goal between the seven and three-minute marks, though Hall knocked down a couple of free throws during this time.

Clemson’s lack of momentum helped fuel NC State’s comeback, as the Wolfpack, led by guard DJ Horne, played some of their best basketball of the season to close out the game.

“I thought we played very well, but there were a couple of situations down the stretch where I thought we didn’t,” head coach Brad Brownell said. “We had a couple of things go against us, but we have to be better and not put ourselves in those situations.”

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About the Contributors
Jose Zarraluqui, Senior Reporter
Caitlyn Tai, Senior Photographer
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