POWER GAME Inside Strength Leads Clemson past UNC
Clemson rediscovered its inside offensive game and opened up a big lead over North Carolina in the second half on the way to a 67-49 win over the Tar Heels in the first round of the ACC Tournament in Rock Hill, SC.
Powered by the combination of tight inside defense and a 30-point, 17-rebound joint effort by Jaci Stimson and Laura Cottrell the Lady Tigers advanced to the semifinals.
The victory, which snapped Clemson’s three-game slide, was the Lady Tigers 20th of the season, and the 400th in the history of the program.
With Clemson trailing 27-17, and struggling offensively, Coach Jim Davis called timeout and reminded the Lady Tigers of their game playtake the ball to the basket.
“We went back to the basics of our game play, pushed the ball inside to Jaci and Laura.”
Stimson hit seven of eight shots and matched her season high with 16 points. Cottrell added 14 points, and contributed six offensive rebounds and four steals. Once the offense kicked in, Clemson dominated.
Stimson kicked off an 11-0 run with a steal and short jumper and then added two more free throws and a three-point play. A jumper by Stephanie Ridgeway put the Lady Tigers on top 28-27 and Clemson led 34-32 at the break.
Clemson outscored UNC 15-4 during the first nine minutes of the second half, and was never threatened.
North Carolina shot just 24 percent and scored only six second half baskets. Clemson shot 67 pcercent from the floor in the second half, and finished at 52 percent.
After scoring 27 points in the first 12 minutes of the game, the Tar Heels managed just 22 points in the final 28 minutes. “Our defense was the difference,”said Davis.
“It pretty much took them out of everything they wanted to do in the second half. I was pleased. We showed a lot of discipline after the ball was shot. We blocked out, they crashed the boards, and we got into the one-and one early.”
“Defense makes it happen for us, and it did again today. We had some young players who came in and gave us a spark.”
THREE IN A ROW! Cottrell leads Lady Tigers to the ACC Finals. Led by LauraCottrell’s 14 points and 15 rebounds the LadyTigers finished off the ACC’s most surprising hat trick by beating the top-seeded Cavaliers 75-67, for the third straight time.
Stephanie Ridgeway and Amy Geren added 14 points, while Jaci Stimson scored 12.
“Today we were a team,” said Coach Jim Davis. “Im very very proud. There isn’t much coaching that we’re doing right now to motivate-they’re motivating themselves.”
The Lady Tigers out rebounded the Cavaliers 49-37 and turned 13 second-half offense rebounds into 11 points.
By dominating inside, defensively and on the boards, the Lady Tigers took away Virginia’s transition game and forced the Cavaliers to the perimeter. Virginia tried 27 three-pointers, but made only seven, and shot just 33 percent overall. Asked to reveal Clemson’s secret, Davis quipped “we’re guarding them. “We live and die by our defensive effort.” Davis said. “And again today, we played good defense.”
Virginia jumped to an early 7-2 lead, but Clemson battled back, took the lead on back-to-back baskets by Stimson, and never trailed after a layup by Cottrell with 12:18 left in the first half.
The Lady Tigers opened up a nine-point margin and led by seven at halftime, 35-27. Virginia cut the lead to five on two occasions in the second half, the latest at th 12:45 mark after a three-pointer by Wendy Palmer. Rebound baskets by Stimson and Natasha Anderson helped turn back Virginia’s rally, and Clemson pulled to a 13-point margin, 63-50 after a pair of free throws by Amy Geren with 4:12 left. The Lady Tigers closed out the victory at the free throw line, getting four each from Geren and Cottrell in the final 1:34.
ACC CHAMPIONS Free Throws Seal Victory Clemson completed its ACC Tournament sweep with a 71-54 victory over 12th-ranked Duke wrapping up an NCAA Automatic bid and providing the ultimate for coach Jim Davis.
“It was a team effortthe best I’ve seen in 29 years of coaching,” said Davis. “This is as good as it gets, and all the credit goes to those 13 young ladies.”
“We came in relaxed and our defense just took over the game,” said tournament MVP Laura Cottrell. ” We knew we had to stop their offense to have a chance to win, so that’s what we did.”
In doing so, the Lady Tigers made history–no Clemson team men’s or women’s, in 64 previous tries, had won an ACC basketball tournament championship.
The Lady Tigers beat the Blue Devils the way they got to the championship game by defense and rebounding.
Clemson shut down Duke for the first 10 minutes, streaked to a 25-8 lead, and then weathered a rally that brought the Blue Devils within five early in the second half. Whenever threatened, however, the Lady Tigers responded with a defensive stop, a pair of free throws, or a put-back.
Clemson nailed down the championshp at the free throw line, hitting 18 of 20 in the final 3:18. Freshman Amy Geren led Clemson with 12 pointsall in the final five minutes. “Coming into the tournament, we felt pressure, but about halfway throught the North Carolina game, I felt us just relax a little bit and start to play. You could see the burden lifted off their shoulders. This is an incredibly close-knit group,” Davis said. “They’re each others biggest competitors on the practice floor, and each other’s best friends and supporters when they go against someone else.
“We make us better, and we do it every day in practice. I really like the way they play. They play hard, and then some of our younger players come in and give us a lift. Our bench has been a big factor. We showed some great poise in the tournament and withstood the pressure and runs that good teams are going to make at you. We did it by good execution. The high level of execution, was a result of preparation and focus.”
Clemson's ACC All-Tournament TeamFirst Team: Stephanie Ridgeway; Laura CottrellSecond Team: Jaci Stimson; Amy GerenACC Tournament MVP: Laura Cottrell
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