GREENSBORO, N.C. - To say the 2003-2004 basketball season was a learning experience for Vernon Hamilton would be a vast understatement.
The only true point guard on the Clemson roster, Hamilton endured a season where he displayed both flashes of brilliance and moments of frustration. For every smooth drive or great defensive play, there seemed to be a poor shot or a turnover.
Thursday night's ACC Tournament play-in game was no different.
Hamilton, coming off the bench as he has since the midway point of the season, led Clemson in scoring with 19 points. He scored Clemson's final five points in overtime, and found himself standing on the free throw line intentionally missing a shot in hopes a teammate could rebound and tie the score.
Of course, the flip side is had Hamilton taken better care of the basketball down the stretch, there might not have been a need for overtime. Clemson might have won in regulation.
Instead, it fell 83-79 in the extra period.
For Hamilton, it proved to be the final - albeit most difficult - lesson of his freshman season.
"When you have a lead of eight points you definitely don't want to lose that lead," he said. "It comes down to taking care of the basketball, and that's not what I did late in the game. That's what cost us and led to a couple of their runs. A couple of offensive mental blocks, and then on defense not closing out, ended up hurting us."
Now comes the all-important offseason.
Hamilton will be expected to lead Oliver Purnell's team from the outset next season, making better decisions at the point and providing a spark on defense. It's a challenge he seems to be ready to accept.
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to win," he said. "Coach Purnell has a plan for us, and that's the one we're going to follow."
Thursday night's ACC Tournament play-in game ended for Chris Hobbs like so many others during his four-year career.
The Tigers' senior forward fouled out with 2:56 remaining and his team ahead 62-54, trying to draw a charge from Virginia's J.R. Reynolds. Reynolds got the benefit of the blocking foul - the third on Hobbs for the evening - and hit the two free throws to pull the Cavs within six points.
At that point chances appeared good that Hobbs would see the floor at least once more, in the quarterfinals.
Instead, Clemson blew the eight-point lead, lost in overtime, sending Hobbs' career to an unceremonious end.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Clemson outrebounded Virginia 42-32, including an impressive 14-6 on the offensive boards. Sharrod Ford and Olu Babalola each had nine rebounds, while Akin Akingbala added eight.
Virginia shot better from the field (42 percent-40 percent) and the free throw line (77 percent-75 percent).
Clemson, as it has for most of the season, had the most turnovers. The Tigers committed 19, compared to 14 for the Cavs.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
Virginia coach Pete Gillen, when asked about need help rebounding in today's quarterfinal game vs. No. 1 seed Duke (noon):
"Dennis Rodman has some eligibility left, I think. Of course, I don't think he can spell 'Virginia.'"
Virginia's win was its first in the ACC Tournament since 1995...When Thursday night's game tipped off, Clemson's Oliver Purnell became the 54th man to appear as a head coach in the ACC Tournament...Coming into Thursday night, the No. 8 seed had won the previous nine games played vs. No. 9 in the tournament...This was Clemson's seventh appearance in the play-in game, including a current streak of five straight years...Thursday was Virginia's first-ever appearance in the play-in game. In two previous stints as the No. 9 seed (1998-99), the Cavs lost to No. 1 Duke at a time when the ACC tournament had changed formats....Virginia's two wins over the Tigers earlier this year marked the fifth time in play-in game history that one team swept the regular season series from another.