Ellington's 3-pointer helps UNC escape ClemsonJan 7, 2008 - 5:55 AM CLEMSON, South Carolina (Ticker) -- Wayne Ellington made David Potter and Clemson pay for being a fraction too late.
Ellington hit a game-winning 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second left in overtime and scored a career-high 36 points as top-ranked North Carolina survived its Atlantic Coast Conference opener with a 90-88 victory on Sunday.
Ty Lawson had 16 points and Tyler Hansbrough added 12 and 14 rebounds for the Tar Heels (15-0, 1-0 ACC), who improved to 10-1 all-time against the Tigers when they are ranked as the top team in the nation.
"We feel fortunate to win tonight," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "Clemson is by far the best team that we have played so far, it was the first team we've really been tested by this year."
"We have a very disappointed locker room," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "Our guys realize we let one get away against a good team. We were up one with five seconds and didn't finish."
Trailing most of the second half and overtime, North Carolina went ahead 87-86 when Lawson converted two free throws with 49 seconds left in the extra session.
After Potter rebounded a missed jumper by teammate Cliff Hammonds, freshman Demontez Stitt was fouled on a drive and sank two attempts from the stripe for an 88-87 edge with 13 seconds left.
Lawson brought the ball up court and, following a fumbled exchange with Marcus Ginyard, Williams called a timeout with 5.4 seconds remaining to set up a new play.
Lawson took the inbounds pass and found Ellington on a left wing with a pass that was nearly stolen as Potter jumped the passing lane. Without a defender in front of him, Ellington stepped up and knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the game.
"We didn't think he could go for 36," Purnell said of Ellington. "In fact, 33 would have been fine. He's a heck of a player."
While Ellington was able to have the game of his young career, the Tigers did do an excellent job of limiting Hansbrough, holding him 10 points under his team-leading average.
"If you had told me we would do that type of job on Hansbrough, I'd take it," Purnell said.
"We never did a good job of getting the ball into Tyler (Hansbrough)," Williams said. "They have great athletes and put a lot of pressure on the ball. Clemson is a great defensive team."
The close win kept North Carolina among the six remaining undefeated teams in Division I, including a Mississippi squad that handed Clemson (12-2, 0-1) its first loss on December 22.
The Tigers came back to win their previous two games, and were ahead, 81-74, with 2:37 left in the second half when Hammonds broke the Tar Heels' full-court pressure for a layup.
North Carolina responded with a 7-0 run behind 3-pointers from Ellington and Danny Green and a free throw by Hansbrough, knotting the score at 81-81 with 59 seconds to play.
After Hansbrough drew a charge on the other end, Ellington tossed up an ill-advised 3-pointer with 13 seconds left.
Clemson had a chance for its first win over No. 1 UNC since January 8, 1980, but Trevor Booker's shot in the lane missed the rim and two subsequent follow attempts were also off the mark.
One reason that the Tigers were unable to close out the contest was due to their spotty free-throw shooting, converting just 3-of-10 after halftime.
"We had a good working lead in the last five or six minutes, but couldn't convert our free throws and turned it over," Purnell said. "We talked about taking care of small details that come back to haunt you. It's never just one play. I just told them we are not where we need to be yet."
K.C. Rivers had 24 points - 15 in the first half - and Booker added 14 and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, who finished with 27 points off 19 turnovers by the Tar Heels.
Prior to overtime, the previous time that UNC had the lead was with 2:26 left before halftime when Green's layup gave it a 38-34 lead.
Clemson closed the first half on a 7-0 run, grabbing 41-38 at the half. Rivers had three points during that span.
- NCAA BB
FINAL IN 1ST OT 1ST 2ND 1OT TOTAL
--- --- --- -----
NORTH CAROLINA (1) 38 43 9 90
CLEMSON (19) 41 40 7 88 FINAL IN 1ST OT
Jan 6 10:06 PM
- NCAA BB
(1) NORTH CAROLINA 81
(19) CLEMSON 81 END 2ND HALF, GOING INTO OVERTIME
Jan 6 9:43 PM
- NCAA BB
(1) NORTH CAROLINA 38
(19) CLEMSON 41 HALFTIME
Jan 6 8:29 PM
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