CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Markell Johnson hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left and North Carolina State came from 18 down in the first half to beat Clemson 59-58 in Wednesday’s second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The Tigers had a final chance after Johnson’s free throws, but Marcquise Reed’s heave from a few steps inside of halfcourt wasn’t close to end it.
Johnson had 23 points for the eighth-seeded Wolfpack (22-10), who survived to win a game that both teams needed to help their NCAA Tournament hopes as bubble teams.
Reed scored 16 points for the ninth-seeded Tigers (19-13), who dominated the first half in a rematch of a game won by the Wolfpack on Braxton Beverly’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer in January.
Clemson made just 6 of 31 shots (19 percent) after halftime, including a run of more than 11 minutes without a basket and nearly seven minutes without a point.
Clemson: The Tigers could be left to lament this one on Selection Sunday. They led 36-18 at one point and shot 52 percent in the first half to lead by 16 at the break. And after giving up the lead with about 5½ minutes left, they got it back on a 3-pointer from Reed and a stickback from Elijah Thomas — only to see a whistle on Clyde Trapp send Johnson to the line on his off-balance shot to hit the winning free throws.
N.C. State: Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts has said the team’s pressing style and aggressive philosophy is enough to keep it in any game, even facing a big deficit. That proved true Wednesday, with the Wolfpack doing just enough to slowly cut into the lead to be in position to regroup as Clemson’s shots strayed way off target.
Clemson: The Tigers now wait to learn their postseason fate.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals to face second-ranked and top-seeded Virginia.