Markell Johnson made two free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining as North Carolina State completed a rally from an 18-point deficit to defeat Clemson 59-58 in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Johnson’s free throws were the only scoring for either team in the final 3:43 in a matchup of two teams aiming to land on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Eighth-seeded NC State (22-10) faces top-seeded and No. 2-ranked Virginia in Thursday afternoon’s quarterfinal round.
Clemson never had possession in the final minute until the last 2.6 seconds because of the ball going out of bounds off the Tigers following Johnson’s miss with about 42 seconds left.
Johnson poured in 23 points for NC State, which won 69-67 at home in the only other meeting this season with the Tigers. That game ended on Braxton Beverly’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Marcquise Reed’s 16 points and Aamir Simms’ 11 points paced ninth-seeded Clemson (19-13), which had won its two previous games in making a late-season push to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Torin Dorn had 12 rebounds and eight points for NC State.
NC State, which lost two of its previous three games, used a 10-0 spurt to close within 51-47. The Wolfpack grabbed a 54-53 lead on Johnson’s 3-pointer with 5:15 to play. He hit another long-range shot for a four-point edge.
Clemson missed 14 straight shots from the field covering more than 11 minutes. Then the Tigers benefited from a five-point possession, with a 3-pointer from Reed and then keeping the ball because of foul while that shot was in the air. Elijah Thomas scored the go-head basket after an offensive rebound.
That was the last scoring until Johnson’s free throws at the end.
Clemson led 42-26 at halftime. Earlier, the Tigers built a 36-18 lead before NC State produced an 8-0.
—Field Level Media