WASHINGTON – Raymond Felton scored a career high 29 points to rally No. 2 North Carolina late in the second half to avoid one of the biggest upsets in ACC tournament history with an 88-81 victory over Clemson on Friday in the quarterfinals.
The Tigers (16-15) led by 13 points with 9:20 remaining but Felton brought the Tar Heels back with a furious comeback that saw the All-ACC Guard score the last 10 points including the go-ahead three with 90 seconds remaining. 24 of Felton’s 29 points were scored in the second half.
“We played well today for 37 minutes against North Carolina, arguably the best team in the country or the second-best team in the country,” said Clemson head basketball coach Oliver Purnell.
”My hat goes off to these guys. They have come a long way to be playing at that level. Obviously, we are very disappointed we didn't close the deal here to advance. “
Clemson also helped the North Carolina (27-3) cause with some nervous play toward the end of the game where the Tigers turned the ball over on the three straight trips and also missed some crucial free throws.
“We just got tight,” said Clemson guard Shawan Robinson. “We had them tight and they were making mistakes. When we were up five we were playing like we were just trying to hold the lead rather than just keep attacking. They just took advantage of it. They're a real good team.”
Robinson scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half including a long three just before the half that gave Clemson the 43-40 advantage. Hamilton and Ford added 16 and 15, respectively for the Tigers.
“It is a disappointing loss,” said Clemson forward Olu Babalola. “If we could have knocked down more foul shots to extend our lead it could have been a different outcome. This is real disappointing right now. “
Rashad McCants, Sean May and Jawad Williams all had 13 for the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels made a school ACC tournament record 37 free throws against the Tigers. It was the sixth most free throws ever made against a Clemson team and the most since 1990. UNC ended with 37 makes on 47 attempts while the Tigers were 20 of 29.
Clemson will now wait till for a NIT selection which will be announced Sunday night.