WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Twice earlier this season Clemson head coach Oliver Purnell chose not to foul an opposing shooter in the waning seconds of a game with his team ahead by three points. On both occasions the opposition hit a game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime, then won the game in the extra period.
Wednesday night's game at Wake Forest came down to the exact same scenario.
Different team. Unfortunately, same result.
Justin Gray hit a fall-away 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds to play to tie the game at 60-60, and Wake Forest outscored Clemson 14-8 in overtime to sneak out of Joel Coliseum with a 74-68 win over the Tigers.
It was just the second ACC win of the season for the Demon Deacons (2-11, 14-13 overall). Clemson had won the first matchup between the teams 74-73, also in overtime.
"Justin shouldn't have gotten it back. We got him inside the three. When the guy you don't want to get the shot gives it up, you have to try hard enough to not let him get it back," Purnell said. "He hit a tough shot. There is no question about it. You have to give them credit. It went in and we went to overtime."
The Tigers (15-11, 4-9) trailed by as many as nine points in the second half before shooting their way back into the game.
K.C. Rivers scored all 16 of his points in the second half, helping Cliff Hammonds and Shawan Robinson keep Clemson close as the game wore on. And when Robinson hit a pair of free throws with 21.7 seconds to go to put his team ahead 60-57, things looked good for the Tigers.
But Gray was able to get a shot off in traffic to tie the score. Clemson quickly inbounded the ball and rushed it up floor to Akin Akingbala, whose 15-footer rimmed out at the buzzer.
Afterwards, Purnell again found himself answering questions about choosing not to foul in the closing seconds.
"We had trouble rebounding on free throws. We gave up three offensive rebounds on free throws. If you give up an offensive rebound in that situation and they kick it back out and launch a three, you lose," he said. "We've had trouble rebounding free throws late in games an awful lot and that cost us in this game. Not that three, but they got the ball back a couple of times off missed free throws."
In overtime Clemson had a chance to go ahead with under a minute to go when Hammonds missed a 3-pointer with his team trailing 70-68. Drum hit a pair of free throws to put Wake Forest ahead by four on the next possession.
Erik Williams then blocked a Hammonds shot on the other end of the floor, and when he then forced a tie-up with the loose ball, giving his team possession with 16.9 seconds to go, the game was over.
Williams had 19 points to lead Wake Forest, while Gray ended with 13.
Robinson and Hammonds each followed Rivers with 15 points.
Clemson returns to action at 2 p.m. Saturday, hosting Virginia.