As discussed earlier on this list (see #11 for Psycho T’s big game) 2008 was rough year to be a Clemson Tiger playing the North Carolina Tar Heels. Three meetings, three Carolina wins. But the first matchup was the best. The Tar Heels had been ranked #1 to start the season and for their first fourteen wins, there was no arguing it: 14 up and 14 down. Their last four non-conference wins were by and average of 33 points. But ACC is a different beast, and Win #15 would not be so easy.
Oliver Purnell’s Clemson squad played a fantastic game at home against the top-ranked Heels, hounding Tyler Hansbrough all night and holding him to just 12 points on 7 shot attempts. Fortunately for Psycho T, a fella by the name of Wayne Ellington stepped up. Coming into that night, Ellington’s career high at Chapel Hill had been 23 points. By the time the night was done, he had finished with 36.
Of those 36, every one was essential. With 2:37 to go in the game, a Tiger layup gave them a 7-point lead and it looked like a court-storming upset was in the cards. Instead, Ellington nailed a three to jumpstart a Carolina comeback to tie it up and send it to overtime. Caroline scored nine points in the extra session; seven of those were Ellington’s.
But the last three points were the most essential of all. After a pair of free throws gave Clemson an 88-87 lead with 13 seconds left, Carolina brought the ball into the frontcourt and promptly broke down from their assigned play call. A Roy Williams timeout gave them one last shot with 5.4 left. Out of the timeout, Lawson took the inbound pass at the top of the key, was doubled, and whipped a pass to a waiting Ellington on the wing, missing a defender’s hand by inches. Once the ball reached Wayne’s hands, there was only one outcome:
A signature night with a signature ending.