This is probably a basketball game that NC State should have won. Clemson was the Pack’s toughest opponent it has faced to this point, and a loss on the road to such a team is nothing to look too far into. A good team won a close game at home as it should, but it does leave you with a sour taste in your mouth knowing that this was there for the taking, and NC State simply passed.
The Pack was electric in the first half. It got good guard play, shot the three well, and took a 39-32 lead into the break. Clemson was decidedly the more locked-in team in the second half, but the Pack, largely at the free throw line, was able to weather that storm and cling to a single-digit lead right up until the final minute, when it melted down on its final two offensive possessions with a chance to salt the game away.
Up three, D.J. Funderburk took a silly contested mid-range shot, and the sequence that followed resulted in Clemson guard and B-list Marvel Universe character Nick Honor tying the game at 62 with a triple. On the ensuing possession, Devon Daniels tossed a terrible pass to the wrong team.
Daniels was good for most of the game, and Funderburk was also huge in the second half. This game definitely doesn’t fall on them just for those two bad sequences, but generally, State needed to have itself more together to close this one out. It played loose and confident most of the night, but it clenched when crunch time arrived.
Thanks to Shakeel Moore shutting down an isolation play at the buzzer, the Pack was able to force overtime, but a silly bounce on a Clemson hook shot with 10 seconds left sealed the game. This shot wasn’t even close, it bounced like three feet above the rim, and then just dropped through. If you don’t deserve to win, the universe will let you know I suppose.
There’s nothing to worry about here. State is pretty good. This is definitely an NCAA Tournament team. Clemson is very good, and State, still down a man, outplayed the Tigers on their home floor for a large portion of the night. Littlejohn is a place where NC State is notorious for just totally not showing up at all, but it was the better team for a lot of the game, just not quite enough of it. So it goes.