The season ended the same way it started for the Tigers, not being able to shoot from the field nor from the free throw line.
Clemson's second-round game against Louisville was there for the taking, but the Tigers inability to score doomed them down the stretch, as it has in several close losses this season.
Overall the Tigers finished 11-of-24 from the charity stripe. And as a result, Clemson's season came to a close as Louisville took the 74-68 victory Monday night at Freedom Hall, thus ending the careers of centers Akin Akinbala and Steve Allen, and guard Shawan Robinson.
"This game came down to free throw shooting," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. "It's hard to get around that."
Trailing by four points for a good portion of the second half, each time the Tigers (19-13) had a chance to cut into the lead and make it a one possession game, they either missed from the field or missed pair of free throws.
At one point in the second half, Clemson was just 6-of-16 from the line.
Then it seemed at the other end, the Tigers defense would have a breakdown and allow Louisville to increase its lead. But in the end, it still all came back to free throws.
"Defensively, I thought we made a lot of bonehead errors," Purnell said. "But the free throw line was just too much to overcome, especially at their home. It failed us tonight miserably."
After witnessing some of the contests that paralleled Monday's, it's sometimes difficult to imagine exactly how the Tigers actually finished with the record they did.
The fact that Clemson did make the postseason for the second straight year with a team like this speaks volumes about its character and coaching staff.
Never once throughout the season did the Tigers pack it in, nor did the coaching staff allow it to happen. It would have been easy to do so considering that they lost eight games by six points or less or in overtime.
"There's no question this team can compete at the highest level," Purnell said. "Now, we want to take it to the next step."
For the three seniors, Akinbala went out the way you'd expect, scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
"Akin has improved so much this year that pro scouts now come out to watch him," Purnell said. "He's a good player, but he's going to be a great player."
Robinson finished with 13 points, while Allen didn't score, but did grab a rebound.
"They helped build the foundation to where we're going to the postseason every year," Purnell said of the three. "These guys did their job. They got on board from day one and they are the reason we've gotten better every year."
Free Throws Hurt Tigers One Last Time
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