Another painful exit

KANSAS CITY - It was a last ditch effort to save his season, and it turned out to the last shot of his Clemson career.

With his team down three points and the season in the balance, K.C. Rivers caught the basketball on the left wing and dribbled it down in hopes of creating a better shot. However, the fact he was left-handed never really gave him that opportunity, so he threw up a prayer that came up short of the basket.

It was a heart-wrenching moment for the senior who stayed sitting on the floor at The Sprint Center with his jersey pulled over his eyes long after time had expired in the Tigers' 62-59 loss to No. 10 Michigan.

"When I came off, it looked like it was going to be a good enough chance for me to catch and release," Rivers said. "But it was jammed up so I figured if I took it a little further I could get a shot off and sure enough the little man switched up on me, but the quicker I had to turn being a left-handed person, it had to be a fast turn and I did not square up properly.

"Unfortunately, time ran out and the ball went short."

And with it Clemson's season ended at 23-9 overall and losses in five of its last six.

"We just didn't get the ball in the basket," Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said.

The Tigers didn't, especially in the game's first 35 minutes. Clemson struggled with its shooting all night in a 21-of-65 performance, which included a 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) effort from behind the arc.

And the Tigers just didn't miss from long range. They also could not find the mark when they were right at the basket. Rivers, Trevor Booker, Raymond Sykes and David Potter all missed layups and putbacks that a lot of times were uncontested.

"We just missed man. We missed at point blank range," Rivers said. "I missed a few, Book missed a few, and Ray missed a few. We all missed. Shots we normally make, we missed."

The part that makes it even more discouraging was the fact Michigan wasn't exactly lighting things up. The Wolverines (21-13) shot just 39.2 percent from the field. At one point in the second half, they went 5:15 without a basket and allowed Clemson to get back in the game with a 14-0 run.

For a second, after Andre Young and Rivers knocked in back-to-back-to-back threes on consecutive possessions, it looked as if the Tigers were going to do to Michigan what Villanova did to them last season.

"We wanted it, but they didn't break," Clemson guard Demontez Stitt said. "I think the first half really hurt us. We got behind and had to play catch up, and that's what we have been doing all year."

Clemson got behind when the Wolverines used a 14-3 run midway through the first half to take a 17-11 lead on a Manny Harris three with 9:13 to play. Following a Booker putback at the 15:11 mark, the Tigers missed 11 straight shots from there, and Michigan cashed in during the slump.

The Tigers were having success attacking Michigan's zone, but they could not hit those five, six or seven foot shots.

"We got in the paint," Stitt said. "I know I got in there quite a few times, but we just did not hit the shots. That's how the game goes sometimes."

Though the Tigers finally started to find the basket a little later in the half, they still did not do much. Clemson finished the first half 9-of-33 from the field and made just 2-of-12 three-pointers.

Michigan made just 10-of-28 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but the Wolverines did make 6-of-15 from behind the arc. Harris had 14 points in the opening half to lead all scorers. He finished with a game-high 23.

Thursday's loss marked the second straight one-and-done exit in the Big Dance for Oliver Purnell's Tigers and his fifth loss in five tries in the NCAA Tournament.

Clemson still has not won an NCAA Tournament game since they advanced to the Sweet 16 from Kansas City in 1997.

Besides the loss, the most disappointing part of the game came just a few minutes into the second half. Down eight with 17:20 to play, Oglesby was thrown out of the game when he threw an elbow on Michigan's Stu Douglass while trying to get through a screen set by Booker.

"I did elbow him," Oglesby admitted after the game. "I just blanked out and did it. I didn't really think that I was going to get him or anything, it was just selfish of me to loss my cool. I left the guys out to dry."

Douglass made the following two free throws to extend the lead to 10 and then C.J. Lee drained a three-pointer from the right side to up the score to 43-28. The Wolverines led by as many 16 points, 46-30, in the second half.

Clemson finally made a run at it after the Wolverines' DeShawn Sims nailed a three-pointer and Harris made two free throws for a 58-43 lead with 5:51 to play. That's when Young and Rivers nailed their threes and Booker and Stitt contributed with a layup and dunk to make the score 58-57 with 48 seconds to play.

But ultimately the Tigers ran out of energy and Rivers three at the end could not send the game into overtime.


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