CLEMSON – It's a close race for which movie has more sequels – Clemson losing against the best teams in the nation when it shouldn't because of poor free throw shooting and scoring droughts or Sylvester Stallone overcoming great odds to defeat an evil boxer as Rocky.

The Tigers set an all-time record for the worst free throw shooting percentage in ACC last year, hitting just 57.8 percent. Against No. 1 North Carolina, the Tigers were worse.

No. 19 Clemson made just 14-of-27 free throws and North Carolina took advantage as Wayne Ellington drilled a 3-pointer from the left with four-tenths of a second remaining in overtime to get the 90-88 victory Sunday night in a standing room only Littlejohn Coliseum.

"No excuses," said Clemson guard K.C. Rivers, who led the team with 24 points but was just 2-for-5 from the free throw line. "We had it. It was on our fingertips and we let it get away."

Rubbing salt in the wound even more is the fact that the Tar Heels (15-0) made 24 of its 30 attempts from the charity stripe. That's an even 80 percent compared to Clemson's 51.9.

"Needless to say we feel very fortunate," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "It's the first time we've really been tested this year."

And that's why Tiger fans, players and coaches are so frustrated. They've all seen this movie before. It's a never-ending saga like Rocky.

For the record, there have been six Rocky movies but that doesn't come close to the number of games squandered by Clemson.

It's gotten to where the collapse is expected, not seen as an odd occurrence.

In this particular version, Clemson (12-2) held a one-point lead, ironically enough after freshman point guard Demontez Stitt, the second leading free throw shooter in the ACC, drilled two free throws with 13.9 seconds left in overtime. He finished 5-of-10 from the charity stripe.

After running a few seconds off the clock, the Tar Heels called a timeout with 5.4 seconds left to set up the final play.

North Carolina's Marcus Ginyard threw the ball inbounds to speedster Ty Lawson at the near the half-court circle. He took the pass, drove toward the lane and then kicked it out to a waiting Ellington standing just beyond the 3-point arc on the left wing.

While the pass was in the air, Clemson's David Potter went against coach Oliver Purnell's orders and lunged at the pass going from the steal. He missed it by an inch, but it left Ellington, the team's best outside shooter, open for the game winner.

"We're not going to lunge there," Purnell said. "We wanted to make them shoot over the top."

Tigers forward James Mays did all he could to get out on Ellington and force him to alter his shot, but it was to no avail as the ball went perfectly through the rim and net to give him a game-high 36 points.

"I knew when I saw Mays coming to me I had to get the shot off," Ellington said. "I knew if I got the shot off it was going in. I knew it was going in hen it left my hand."

It probably shouldn't have even gotten to that point as the Tigers held a seven-point lead with 2:30 left in regulation. But Clemson went on one of its classic scoring droughts as it had two turnovers, four missed shots and a missed free throw to go scoreless to the end.

"I think the pressure got to us a little bit," Potter said. "It was a big-game situation. It'll be a learning experience."

Tar Heels All-American Tyler Hansbrough was held in check, scoring just 12 points. As a whole, North Carolina shot just 41.7 percent from the field.

The Tigers forced more turnovers and blocked 11 shots. They had more second-chance points, more bench points and nearly as many fast break points. Everything was nearly equal or better except for free throws and 3-pointers.

It didn't help matters that freshman guard Terrence Oglesby was 1-of-10 from beyond the arc. As a team, Clemson was just 6-of-24 from beyond the arc.

"We took too many (3s)," Purnell said. "We've got to throw the ball inside. When we pounded the ball inside, good things happened."

However, there is still a silver lining. Clemson shot atrociously from the free throw line and from 3-point range and still took the top team in the nation into overtime.

Last year at this time, North Carolina was walking out with a 20-plus blowout win. This time, the Tar Heels were relieved and fortunate.

"I feel a little bit better than last year," Purnell said. "I have to admit that. We had a chance to knock off the number one team in the country and we didn't do it. It was there for the taking. …

"We've got a ways to go. You've got to find a way to close the deal and we didn't do that."

Note: A moment of silence was held prior the game in memory of Dr. Harold Vigodsky, a volunteer stat keeper and media guide editor for over 30 years.

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