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Tigers’ final regular-season game thwarted by slow opening

Toby Corriston
Chase Hunter, pictured warming up prior to Clemson’s game against Miami last month, tried to resuscitate the score in the final minutes of play against Wake Forest but ultimately a slow first half proved too large a deficit to overcome.

The Clemson Tigers fell to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 81-76 in their season finale on Saturday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A win would have propelled the Tigers into the ACC Tournament with a double-bye, but the loss instead capped off a strong regular season with a 21-10 (11-9 ACC) record.

The ACC matchup had high-stakes implications from the first tipoff, and with 12 total lead changes, the game was a thriller to the end. In the final eight minutes, Chase Hunter found his rhythm as he buried two 3-pointers to keep the Tigers alive, while clutch late baskets from Joseph Girard III saw Clemson within five points and in need of a miracle.

Pouncing on a sloppy dribble, forward Jack Clark forced a turnover and put the ball in Hunter’s hands with a chance to cut the lead to three. As he bolted to the basket, a chase-down block from Wake Forest’s 7-foot Efton Reid III squandered the Tigers’ comeback story.

Regardless of its last-ditch attempts in the latter half, Clemson will look back on its slow first half as the culprit for their defeat. The Tigers shot roughly 38% from the field and 3-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half, compared to 58% and 6-for-10 in the second.

Although Clemson scored more total points in the second half, the deficit in the first half proved to be too much to overcome.
“I really challenged them at halftime,” head coach Brad Brownell said. “I thought those guys were outstanding in the second half, but simply put, we just couldn’t get enough stops to win the game.”

Despite fouling out late, PJ Hall put up 18 points and four assists. His 16-point second half would have moved mountains for the Tigers if the Clemson star had scored more than 2 points and shot better than 1-for-8 from the field in the first half. Fellow big man Ian Schieffelin put up an uncharacteristic 5 points and zero assists as the Demon Deacons enforced a stout defense in the paint.

“That was a high-level basketball game. Both teams had some guys out there making some terrific plays. Defensively, we just weren’t good enough,” Brownell added.

Although the Tigers failed to end their season with a win, they have done enough over the past several weeks to put themselves in a good position heading into March.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, with Saturday’’s loss and Pittsburgh’s win over NC State, the Panthers (21-10, 12-8 ACC) secured their first-ever double-bye for this week’s upcoming ACC Tournament.

As the Tigers drop to the sixth seed, they will have a single-bye and a matchup against the winner of Miami and Boston College on Wednesday, March 13, at 9 p.m.

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About the Contributors
Ethan Silipo, Senior Reporter
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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