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One Shining ACC Moment

Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page G10

On March 8, 1996, Clemson coach Rick Barnes walked into the locker room at halftime of the Tigers' quarterfinal game against North Carolina knowing he had to get his team's attention. Clemson, which finished the regular season with a 7-9 ACC record, was in serious danger of not being invited to the NCAA tournament.

So Barnes wrote "NIT" on one side of the blackboard and "NCAA" on the other. As players left for the second half, Barnes made each player sign his name under which tournament he wanted to play in. Less than an hour later, sixth-seeded Clemson bolstered its NCAA tournament hopes with a dramatic 75-73 victory over the third-seeded Tar Heels. The win was Clemson's first over North Carolina in the ACC tournament.


Greg Buckner's last-second dunk in 1996 gave the Tigers their first ACC tournament defeat of the Tar Heels. (Doug Pensinger -- Getty Images)

North Carolina did not score in the final 5 minutes 56 seconds of the game. Clemson's Harold Jamison was double-teamed in the final seconds, so he flipped a pass near the basket to Greg Buckner, who converted the game-winning dunk with six-tenths of a second remaining.

It was a landmark victory for a Clemson team composed of seven freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors. Sweating out the unveiling of the NCAA field, Clemson's Bill Harder told the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer, "If we don't make the NCAA tournament, I'll die."

Clemson did make the NCAAs, earning a No. 8 seed.


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