All things come to an end eventually. For Clemson Basketball, that’s a good thing.
For the first time in program history, the Tigers defeated North Carolina in Chapel Hill, using a late second half surge to force overtime before finishing off the Tar Heels in the extra period. Clemson had been 0-59 before, but that streak is officially over after their 60th game against UNC.
Clemson struggled to keep up with North Carolina for most of the game. The Tigers trailed by 10 at halftime and did not take the lead until the overtime period. The Tigers showed their classic grit, finishing the second half on a 12-2 run after trailing by 10 late in the game.
Clemson began its ferocious comeback with two minutes left to play. After two Carolina free throws, Clemson sophomore forward Hunter Tyson knocked down a three-pointer to cut Carolina’s lead to seven. From there, Tiger forward Aamir Simms took over for Clemson. The junior hit a free throw to cut the lead to four. Moments later, he knocked down a huge three to bring the deficit to one. After Carolina stretched the lead to three, Simms stepped up and buried the game-tying three-pointer with three seconds left to force overtime. The rest was history.
Simms finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. His three-pointers at the end of the game will go down in Clemson basketball history.
Clemson also got huge outputs from graduate senior Tevin Mack and sophomore John Newman III, both scoring 17 points in the win. Clemson also got a huge bucket late from junior Clyde Trapp, who made up for his missed free throws late in the game. Simms closed the game on a layup with 18 seconds left, and the Tigers held off a last-ditch effort from the Tar Heels to secure the win.
What’s next for Clemson? The Tigers’ (8-7, 2-3 ACC) conquered one mountain on Saturday, but an even bigger mountain will stand in their way when No. 2 Duke (14-1, 4-0 ACC) comes to town on Tuesday night. Clemson has upset the Blue Devils twice since 2014, but Tuesday night’s game would surpass both of those wins.
The Tigers badly need to keep winning for a shot at postseason play, but the momentum from Saturday’s win could provide Clemson with the spark it needs heading into the rest of the Tigers’ ACC schedule.
The victory in Chapel Hill kicked off what could be the biggest weekend in Clemson athletic history. The Tiger football team will play for its third national title in four years on Monday night before Tuesday night’s showdown with Duke on the hardwood. Can Clemson Athletics go three-for-three?