Emotional Tigers Outplay UNC Down the Stretch


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - If indeed Larry Shyatt's days as Clemson's head basketball coach are numbered, it appears he plans on going down swinging.

Ed Scott scored 18 of his game-high 25 points in the second half Saturday, leading the Tigers to an 80-77 victory over Atlantic Coast Conference nemesis North Carolina at sold out Littlejohn Coliseum.

The victory improved Clemson to 13-8 overall, including 3-7 in the conference, which is just a half-game behind the Tar Heels (4-7, 13-11 overall).

The effort came on the heels of published reports Saturday morning citing an unnamed, high-ranking Clemson athletic department official as saying even a winning record and trip to the National Invitational Tournament may not be enough to save Shyatt's job. But the news did not appear to be a distraction for the team once the game began.

If anything, the Tigers seemed to have more bounce in their collective step. Shyatt himself was noticeably more animated on the sidelines, as well.

At one point in the first half he did a quick spin to say something to a passing official and talked himself right out of his chewing gum. As it popped out of his mouth, he caught it in mid-flight with a deft, no-look swipe and continued yelling at the referee before dispatching the gum right back into his mouth.

That kind of energy, which filled Littlejohn Coliseum from opening tip to final buzzer, seemed to carry the Tigers all afternoon.

"I think it's appropriate to say our fans never allowed us to fall behind by more than six or seven points," an emotionally drained Shyatt said afterwards. "They helped us stay in the game, and they actually got louder when we fell behind...It's hard to play with that energy all the time.

"I'm really happy for our guys and thankful for our crowd."

The game featured 13 ties and 17 lead changes, the last five of which came over the final 7:44 of the game and began when Scott drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key for a 63-62 Clemson advantage.

North Carolina's last field goal - a 3-pointer from the corner by freshman Raymond Felton - gave it a 74-72 lead with 4:08 to go. But after the teams exchanged 1-of-2 trips to the free throw line to make it 75-73 UNC, Olu Babalola tied the game by tipping in his own missed shot with 2:53 remaining.

Babalola then put Clemson ahead with a 15-footer on Clemson's next possession, only to see Felton tie the score at 77 with a pair of free throws at 1:22.

Tomas Nagys - who finished 8-of-8 from the line - gave Clemson the lead for good, 79-77 by hitting two huge free throws with :51.3. to go. The Tigers then had a chance to ice the game when Babalola stole the ball on the ensuing possession, but the sophomore missed both free throws with :33 remaining.

Felton then took the first of two ill-advised shots for North Carolina.

Needing just a two to tie the game, Felton instead launched an off-balance 3-pointer from the left wing with :18 seconds to go and Scott in his face. He fell down, claiming he was fouled, but no call was coming.

The ball finally ended up in the hands of Scott, who hit 1-of-2 attempts from the line with :07.5 to go for an 80-77 lead.

Felton then rushed the ball down floor and, hounded by Scott again, launched a double-clutch 3-pointer from the top of the key that missed badly as time expired.

"It (Felton's first shot) wasn't the one we wanted there," said UNC head coach Matt Doherty. "However, he's the kid I want with the ball in his hands in that situation. I admire him for wanting to take that shot. He'll make more of those than he misses."

Meanwhile, Scott was firm when asked if he fouled Felton on either shot attempt.

"No," he said. "In fact, he may have kept me from fouling him on the last shot when he double-pumped."

As the buzzer sounded, Shyatt made a beeline for the stands behind the Clemson bench where he embraced his wife, the fans around them standing and cheering. As he exited the floor and headed to the locker room, he received a congratulatory hand shake from Clemson Director of Basketball Operations Bill D'Andrea.

Shyatt then appeared to wipe a tear from his eye as he disappeared down the tunnel toward the locker room.

Later, speaking to the media following the game, he spoke of his admiration for the way his team has maintained its focus during a difficult stretch of games in the last month-plus. He also made sure Scott's overall performance didn't go unnoticed.

"Ed Scott wasn't a McDonald's All-American and probably will never be confused with one," Shyatt said. "But there was a stretch there in the second half when he owned the floor, both offensively and defensively. He simply owned the floor."

Scott got help from Nagys, who scored a season-high 15 points. Babalola and Sharrod Ford each scored 11.

Felton's 19 led the Tar Heels, with Jackie Manuel adding 16, Rashad McCants 15 and Jawad Williams 14.

Clemson trailed 37-32 at the half despite some strange numbers. The Tar Heels had 41 shot attempts to Clemson's 19, held a 14-6 advantage on the offensive glass and forced 12 turnover.

The Tigers turned it around in the second half, however.

The final rebounding edge was 42-27 Clemson, including an 18-17 advantage on the offensive boards. Clemson also committed just seven turnovers in the final 20 minutes, and finished the game shooting an impressive 54.9 percent (28-of-51) from the field.


 VISITORS: North Carolina (13-11, 4-7)
                           TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
 ## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
 05 Manuel, Jackie...... f  5-11   1-3    5-6    3  0  3   4  16  1  3  1  1  28
 34 Noel, David......... f  2-4    1-3    0-0    2  2  4   2   5  2  1  0  3  28
 21 Williams, Jawad..... c  4-13   1-5    5-6    3  1  4   3  14  3  0  1  3  35
 02 Felton, Raymond..... g  6-18   5-12   2-2    0  1  1   3  19  7  1  0  2  36
 32 McCants, Rashad..... g  6-11   2-5    1-3    2  2  4   2  15  1  2  0  1  30
 01 Scott, Melvin.......    2-5    2-5    0-0    1  0  1   1   6  0  1  1  1  16
 25 Grant, Damion.......    0-0    0-0    0-0    1  0  1   1   0  0  0  0  0   2
 41 Sanders, Byron......    0-0    0-0    0-0    1  2  3   4   0  3  3  0  0  20
 44 Johnson, Will.......    1-3    0-1    0-0    2  1  3   3   2  0  0  0  0   5
    TEAM................                         2  1  3
    Totals..............   26-65  12-34  13-17  17 10 27  23  77 17 11  3 11 200
 
 TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 15-41 36.6%   2nd Half: 11-24 45.8%   Game: 40.0%  DEADB
 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  6-22 27.3%   2nd Half:  6-12 50.0%   Game: 35.3%   REBS
 F Throw % 1st Half:  1-3  33.3%   2nd Half: 12-14 85.7%   Game: 76.5%   2,1
 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 HOME TEAM: Clemson Tigers (13-8, 3-7)
                           TOT-FG  3-PT         REBOUNDS
 ## Player Name            FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF  TP  A TO BLK S MIN
 12 Babalola, Olu....... f  4-6    1-2    2-5    3  5  8   4  11  1  4  0  0  31
 43 Hobbs, Chris........ f  0-2    0-0    2-2    2  5  7   3   2  1  1  1  2  21
 05 Ford, Sharrod....... c  5-6    0-0    1-2    5  4  9   0  11  0  3  1  1  27
 10 Scott, Edward....... g  9-17   3-4    4-7    0  5  5   0  25  2  4  0  1  40
 14 Christie, Chey...... g  3-8    0-3    0-2    0  1  1   2   6  3  2  0  3  31
 01 Betko, Julian.......    0-0    0-0    0-0    0  0  0   2   0  1  1  0  0   2
 03 Nagys, Tomas........    3-3    1-1    8-8    5  1  6   2  15  1  2  0  0  23
 21 Henderson, Ray......    2-2    0-0    0-0    0  2  2   1   4  1  0  0  0   9
 22 Robinson, Shawan....    2-7    2-6    0-0    1  0  1   4   6  2  2  0  1  16
    TEAM................                         2  1  3
    Totals..............   28-51   7-16  17-26  18 24 42  18  80 12 19  2  8 200
 
 TOTAL FG% 1st Half:  9-19 47.4%   2nd Half: 19-32 59.4%   Game: 54.9%  DEADB
 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half:  3-7  42.9%   2nd Half:  4-9  44.4%   Game: 43.8%   REBS
 F Throw % 1st Half: 11-14 78.6%   2nd Half:  6-12 50.0%   Game: 65.4%    3
 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Officials: Duke Edsall, Steve Gordon, Tim Nestor
 Technical fouls: North Carolina-None. Clemson Tigers-None.
 Attendance: 10500
 Score by Periods                1st  2nd   Total
 North Carolina................   37   40  -   77
 Clemson Tigers................   32   48  -   80
 
 Points in the paint-NC 24,CLEM 34. Points off turnovers-NC 18,CLEM 15.
 2nd chance points-NC 20,CLEM 21. Fast break points-NC 8,CLEM 2.
 Bench points-NC 8,CLEM 25. Score tied-13 times. Lead changes-17 times.
 
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Florence Morning News. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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