GREENSBORO, N.C. -- By now, it has become a ritual. For two weeks, Clemson coach Rick Barnes has written "NCAA" and "NIT" on the locker room blackboard before every game and told his players that particular game might make the difference.
Last night, the psychological ploy paid off in a big way.
Sixth-seeded Clemson scored the final eight points, getting the last two baskets on dunks by Greg Buckner, to upset third-seeded North Carolina, 75-73, before 23,556 at Greensboro Coliseum in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinal.
The Tigers will play Wake Forest, a 70-60 winner over Virginia last night, at 4 p.m. today in the semifinals.
"I talked to the team about this being more than an ACC tournament game," Barnes said. "I felt if we beat Carolina, it would put us in the NCAA tournament."
Clemson, 18-9 with an RPI power rating of 39, made its boldest step in Barnes' two-year tenure by beating the 20th-ranked Tar Heels (20-10). It was only Clemson's fifth win in the past 37 games against Carolina, which holds a staggering 100-15 edge in the series.
It took extraordinary measures and some remarkable heroics to pull off the upset. Carolina led 73-67 after Jeff McInnis (22 points) made a five-foot jumper with 5: 56 left in the game.
Carolina did not score again, and Clemson slowly chipped away at the six-point lead. Harold Jamison, who had four offensive rebounds in the game, made two put-backs to get the deficit to 73-71 with 1: 20 left.
Fouled on the second field goal, Jamison missed his free throw, but Clemson kept the ball. At 1: 05, Buckner dunked off a miss by Terrell McIntyre (20 points) to tie the game.
Carolina lost the ball on its next possession when McInnis, trying to pass to Dante Calabria, threw the ball out of bounds with 26.6 seconds left.
After a Clemson timeout, McIntyre ran the clock under 10 seconds, and passed to Jamison at the foul line. Jamison was immediately trapped but Jamison found Buckner (20 points) open under the basket for the game-winner.
"I saw his eyes get big," Buckner said of Jamison, "and then he dumped it off to me."
Barnes couldn't have drawn it up better himself.
"We try to get to three spots on the floor," he said of the last play. "We went to an open set. Terrell had great poise. I told him that I want him to hold the ball until about eight seconds and then expect a double team to come, and then dribble off center and he's got three outlets to get it to.
"That was a great pass out of the trap to Harold and he made an unbelievable pass to Buckner, and we were able to get the win."
The loss was the third in four games for Carolina, and its sixth in the past 10.
"We're very disappointed, but fortunately I think we have more left of the season," said Carolina coach Dean Smith.
Although Barnes and Smith have been at odds the past two years over the ferocity of Clemson's defense, there were no outbursts by either coach last night.
But when Carolina's Antawn Jamison got pushed to the floor after hitting a jump shot early in the second half, Smith turned to an official and with palms up said, "No foul?"
The Tar Heels had control of the game in the first half and led 46-37 at intermission.
In the second half, Clemson turned up its man-to-man defense.
"At halftime, I said we've got to get more aggressive with the defense," Barnes said. "The second half, we went a long time keeping them off the offensive boards.
"Probably the biggest part of the game in terms of not getting beat was when they got three offensive rebounds and didn't score. We dodged a big bullet right there."
The blackboard message?
"He wrote NCAA and NIT on the board and said we should sign our name under which one we want to go to," said Tony Christie. "After the game, we did."
Pub Date: 3/09/96