Young leads Clemson to overtime win vs. N.C. State
As the rising decibels seemingly threatened to unhinge the Littlejohn Coliseum roof, as the Clemson bench bobbed up and down as if resting on springs, Andre Young trotted back to a defensive position following his game-winning 3 and was met by fellow senior Tanner Smith who embraced him and offered a few quiet words as Clemson closed out a 72-69 overtime win against NC State.
In this season littered with disappointment -- the Tigers (15-13, 7-7 ACC) entered 1-8 in games decided by five or fewer points and are unlikely to be considered for a fifth straight NCAA at-large berth thanks to a No. 147 RPI rating -- Saturday marked the seniors’ moment to testify to their unwillingness to give up a season even if incentive had been erased.
Smith knocked down two free throws to send the game and Young offered the game-winner to defeat an N.C. State (18-11, 7-7) team in need of improving its NCAA case.
“(Young and Smith) deserve this,” coach Brad Brownell said. “They’ve given a lot to this team and had a few situations where a (clutch shot) didn’t work out.”
Young didn’t have time to think about the game-winning shot Saturday.
This wasn’t like against Maryland earlier this month when Young missed two of three free throws in the final seconds, missing an opportunity to tie the game. This time Young was in motion coming off a screen to shoot the game-winner in rhythm from the corner.
“Sometimes in that situation you can be your own worst enemy especially if you’re a good kid with a conscience like Andre,” Brownell said. “(Saturday) there was no thought to it: let it go and go back to all the shots in your life.”
Young had missed his first five 3s Saturday entering overtime.
“Up to that point I wasn’t making a lot of shots, I was really frustrated,” Young said. “But I definitely had the courage to take the shot.”
While the seniors shined in overtime Clemson juniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings continue their upward trajectory.
Jennings scored 17 points on 7 of 14 shooting, again showing less hesitation in his game. Jennings fouled out of the game in overtime.
“I thought he did a good job of playing well through foul trouble,” Brownell said. “He’s been a guy who if he gets in foul trouble it’s hard for him to keep his emotions in check.”
Booker continues to brush with double-doubles, recording 10 rebounds and nine points. Booker also authored a highlight-reel worthy dunk with his brother, Trevor, in attendance.
“Devin has rebounded the ball well, especially defensively,” Brownell said.
But Saturday was about the seniors. The seniors who could have given up on the season after the Maryland loss dropped Clemson to 3-6 in the ACC. Brownell urged them to keep fighting. Even if the Clemson seniors can’t make another trip to the NCAAs they can still author performances and resolve to be remembered.
“We just fought this year,” Smith said. “It hasn’t been easy.”
Note: It was the first time Clemson defeated N.C. State in overtime since Feb. 19, 1966 when Joe Ayoob hit a game-winning 45-foot shot at the Charlotte Coliseum. Ayoob was in attendance Saturday as part of Clemson’s celebration of 100 years of basketball when 90 former players and assistants were honored.