Controversial Foul Sends Lady Tigers Into Second Round


by - Correspondent -
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Clemson's Chrissy Floyd guarding Tennessee-Chattanooga's Damita Bullock in Clemson's NCAA Tournament game with Tennessee-Chattanooga Friday night.

CINCINNATI — For nearly 38 minutes Friday the only thing Clemson could shoot
was itself in the foot. Fortunately for Jim Davis and Co., there were enough
toes left to limp across the finish line.


Senior Nuria Forns scored seven of her 16 points in the final 2:16 Friday,
including both ends of a controversial bonus free throw situation with
eight-tenths of a second left, leading Clemson to a 51-49 victory over
Chattanooga in the opening round of the NCAA Women's Mideast Regional in
Cincinnati.


Forns' free throws capped a wild final moments that left both coaches mum on
the circumstances which led to the foul being called, and Davis breathing a
huge sigh of relief.


"I'm glad we won, but I told (Chattanooga coach) Wes Moore I hated to win
that way," Davis said. "But to win games you have to be good, lucky and
occasionally get one when you don't play well. We got two of those three
tonight, because we didn't play very well at all."


The dramatic ending actually came about off a Clemson turnover.


With a chance to break a 49-49 tie, the Lady Tigers committed a turnover
trying to inbound the ball under their own basket with 33 seconds to go.
After a timeout, Chattanooga's Damita Bullock (19 points) held the ball until
seven seconds remained in the game, then began a move toward the basket.


  Nuria Forns hits two free throws with 0.8 seconds remaining to give Clemson a 51-49 win.

Her 12-foot jumper missed and the game appeared headed to overtime. But on
the rebound, Chattanooga's Tishay Lewis was called for fouling Forns. Forns
hit both free throws for the two-point lead, and the Lady Mocs were unable to
get a shot off before the final buzzer.


Reactions to the controversial foul were mixed. Neither coach would offer
comment on whether he thought a foul should be called in that situation.


Still, emotions ran high.


"I take full blame for that," Moore said. "All year I've told them in that
situation to be careful not to foul, and tonight I didn't do it. That's my
fault."


"I was in denial and disbelief," said Chattanooga's lone senior, Katarika
Banks. "I didn't know exactly what (the official) was calling, but when I saw
her run to the table I knew she was calling a foul, and I couldn't believe
it."


As for Forns, her calm demeanor at the free throw line belied the internal
battle she was fighting.


"Everybody was encouraging me, but I was laughing because I was so nervous,"
she said. "I was fine after a while, but at the beginning I was a little
surprised."


The game-winning free throws capped off an impressive stretch run for Forns.
She shook off a poor shooting night (6-for-15, 2-for-7 from 3) to hit a
baseline jumper at 2:16 to pull Clemson within 45-43.


After a defensive stop, Erin Batth (11 points, 14 rebounds) converted a
three-point play to give the Lady Tigers a 46-45 lead, a margin that lasted
only until the next trip down the floor when Bullock put her team up a point
with two free throws.


But Forns answered again, nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a
49-47 Clemson lead at 1:29. Bullock tied it moments later with a tough
eight-footer in the lane to set up the final sequence.


The 2:16 stretch was the only time Clemson looked comfortable offensively all
evening. Chattanooga used a variety of zone defenses, and an occasional
sagging man-to-man, to take the Lady Tigers out of their rhythm early.


The zone took away Clemson's interior height advantage, and when the jump
shots wouldn't fall Chattanooga packed the zone tighter and tighter, further
frustrating the Lady Tigers.


  Erin Batth, Nuria Forns, and Jim Davis at the post-game press conference following Clemson's win.

"We just didn't execute," Davis said. "They knew every tendency we had,
everything we were going to do. I can't compliment Chattanooga enough for how
well they played us."


Clemson, a No. 5 seed, trailed just 22-19 at the half despite an 8-for-30
(26.7 percent) performance from the floor and a 21-19 rebounding deficit.


Chattanooga's changing zone defense — the Lady Mocs, seeded No. 12, used
everything from the standard 2-3 to a triangle-and-two — took away Clemson's
size advantage inside and forced the Lady Tigers to rely on perimeter jump
shots.


When the shots didn't fall, Clemson's offense struggled mightily. The Lady
Tigers got a combined eight points from the trio of Batth (four), Scott and
Floyd (two each), and never got its transition game in gear.


Only a stellar defensive effort kept Davis' team within striking distance.
Clemson held Chattanooga to just 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from the floor,
including a 3-for-10 effort from Bullock.


Clemson returns to the Cintas Center at 1:05 p.m. Sunday to face the winner of the Xavier/
Louisville first round game. Xavier has yet to lose on its new home floor.


Dan Scott is the host of SportsTalk (10AM-Noon) on 104.9 FM in Upstate SC and
Managing Editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger

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