All-ACC first team selection Trevor Booker said afterwards it was an all-too familiar feeling considering last year’s first round ACC Tournament exit, courteous of No. 12 seed Georgia Tech.
“It’s a lot similar. It’s the exact same thing, almost the same seeds and everything. The only thing about it now, I can’t get it back next year,” he said.
Booker gave up his fifth and final foul with 9.2 seconds to play to sophomore guard C.J. Williams, who knocked down both attempts on the one and one. With the Wolfpack’s lead pushed to 59-54, Demontez Stitt answered at the other end with a 3-pointer, giving the Tigers life in the waning seconds.
Again, Clemson fouled, sending sophomore guard Julius Mays, who missed the front-end of the one-and-one with 2.9 seconds left. The miss was grabbed by second-team All-ACC center Tracy Smith, closing the book on Clemson’s 2010 ACC Tournament
“I just think they played for their postseason lives. They knew what they had to do, and they came out and did it,” Booker said.
The loss dropped Clemson’s record to 21-10 while N.C. State improved to 18-14 and advances on to a quarterfinal matchup against Florida State.
“They really played extremely hard, did a great job rebounding the ball…and they shot the ball well,” said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. “It’s one thing to execute, but you’ve got to make those shots.”
N.C. State won the battle on the boards 34-25 and limited Clemson to just 39 percent shooting, including a 36 percent clip in the first half.
Despite nine turnovers in the first-half, Clemson trailed only 25-21 at the break.
“We looked at the halftime score, coach (Ron) Bradley came in the locker room and said, ‘As bad as we’re playing, we’re only down by four points,’” said freshman guard Noel Johnson.
“It was like a four-point margin within the whole game.”
Clemson led in the first few minutes prior to a 3-pointer by senior guard Farnold Degand which gave N.C. State a 7-5 lead with 15:16 to play in the opening half.
Clemson repeatedly cut the lead to margins of three and four throughout the second half, and at times trailed by as many as 10.
And just when it seemed like the Tigers grabbed momentum, State would go on a quick run to steal it right back.
“It was a difficult game for us, especially coming up on the short-end losing,” Johnson said.
He finished with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from behind the 3-point line.
“It’s just a confidence. I’ll be ready to play in the next game too,” Johnson said.
Sunday, Clemson learns what’s in store next during post-season play. Booker realizes the seed in the NCAA Tournament will be higher after another one and done appearance in the ACC Tournament.
“We’ve just got to take this as motivation to keep improving,” he said.
No. 9 seed Virginia beat No. 8 seed Boston College 68-62, advancing to play No. 1 Duke on Friday. No. 12 Miami beat No. 5 Wake Forest 83-62 and No. 7 Georgia Tech beat No. 10 North Carolina 62-58. Miami will play Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech plays Maryland.