WFNZ/Jason Huber

NC State Increases Tournament Chances With Comeback Win over Clemson

Jason Huber
March 13, 2019 - 4:24 pm

The No. 8-seeded NC State Wolfpack (22-10, 10-9 ACC) and No. 9-seeded Clemson Tigers (19-13, 9-10 ACC) and were fighting for much more than the right to advance in the ACC Tournament on Wednesday.

There were bigger stakes in store as many college basketball experts speculated that the matchup between these teams would mean a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had both teams listed as the tournament's "Last 4 In" prior to the game. 

The Wolfpack ranked No. 32 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), entering the game which measures wins, losses, location, scoring margin, and net offensive and defensive efficiency.

Clemson ranked 35 behind Saint Mary's, who defeated top-ranked Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

Clemson had won four of its last five games in a season that began with a Top 25 ranking. NC State was coming off two straight losses and a lack of many notable wins on their resume.

"We don't really try to focus on things like that. We try to let the powers handle that and we just play and focus on the next game the next opponent," NC State guard Torin Dorn said.

The game lived up to the expectations as the Wolfpack stormed back from an 18-point deficit to defeat Clemson 59-58 in the second-largest comeback in ACC Tournament history.

"The team that you saw in the first half was not NC State basketball," NC State head coach Kevin Keatts said. "I'm not a guy to yell all the time, but there was a little yelling going. Give these guys credit. They responded."

With Clemson ahead 58-57 in the final seconds of the game and having one foul to give, the Tigers fouled NC State junior Markell Johnson in the act of shooting allowing him to shoot two free throws and put the Wolfpack ahead.

The Tigers missed a Hail Mary shot at the buzzer.

"We were trying to (Let NC State play it out). It's not as easy to get to a guy like that," Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. "He got away and made a play down the lane and got a very good call."

With the season on the line, Brownell was not happy with the call.

Two free throws from NC State could very well lead the tournament decision-makers to leave the Tigers on the outside looking in.

"I thought he (Markell) was tremendous down the stretch," Keatts said. "He made big threes, and then obviously sealed the game by making two big free throws."

Mumbling under his breath, Brownell said, "Unbelievable this happens in the ACC Tournament."

Clemson went scoreless during the final 3:44 of the game after taking the lead.

"Really disappointed with the way the game ended. Too much at stake for things to end like that," Brownell said.

With 11 minutes remaining, the Tigers went scoreless for seven minutes after leading by as many as 18 points.

"We just didn't execute like we should have in the second half," Clemson guard Marcquise Reed said.

NC State took advantage of the scoring futility behind junior guard Markell Johnson hitting two 3-pointers spurring a 20-2 Wolfpack run.

"It was a great win for us," Keatts said. "Survive and advance."

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