The battle between North Carolina State and Clemson started out ugly and finished in a flourish of excitement. But the game ended just as the first half did with the 11th-seeded Wolf Pack on top of the 6-seed Tigers, 59-57. State’s Tracy Smith had 19 points on 9-15 shooting to go with 8 rebounds. Clemson’s Trevor Booker had 17 points on 7-11 shooting. The ‘Pack didn’t handle the Clemson press all that well but State did grab an offensive rebound on 40% of its missed shots. But State’s bench outscored the Tigers’ 21-16 and that depth proved to be the difference in a second half that featured sixty percent more scoring than the first. As a 7-point underdog, State was the largest upset on a day that featured many upsets.
Clemson is considered a lock for the big dance, but a disappointing finish to the regular season and an early exit from the ACC tourney won’t help it secure a single-digit seed. Absent winning the conference tournament, State will not be playing in any more tournaments. To accomplish that goal the ’Pack will need to beat the 3rd seeded Florida State Seminoles, tomorrow at 9 Eastern.
In the earlier game Georgia Tech bested the North Carolina Tar Heels 62-58. Tech fell behind early to the disappointing Tar Heels and trailed by 10 points at the half. Despite not doing so for much of the year, Carolina took care of the ball for most of the game, limiting turnovers to far below their normal conference output. And the Heels did an excellent job on the offensive glass, grabbing an offensive rebound on 45% of their misses shots. But in the second half Tech really upped its defensive game and got the ball to its star freshman Derrick Favors. Tech held UNC to 33% shooting, including only 2-16 from beyond the arc. Favors out-physicaled the Heels inside, and his teammates in the front court accounted for 35 of Tech’s 62 points as the Yellow Jackets stormed back to win with a 38-point second half performance. It was Tech’s third win over Carolina this season.
Tech will play the 2-seed Maryland Terrapins Friday. The Yellow Jackets are thought to be on the right side of the bubble and winning a game they were expected to win should help their case. Carolina’s season it would probably like to forget is now over. Many expect things to be better in 2011 for the Heels as Carolina returns most of its young talent and is expected to bring in some talented recruits as well.